Former mayor looks back on the past 
20 years as she plans to step down

Coun Kath Rowson takes over from coun Peter Callow as Mayor of Blackpool
Coun Kath Rowson takes over from coun Peter Callow as Mayor of Blackpool
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She’s backed countless campaigns, spearheaded the creation of a wildlife trail and represented Blackpool as it’s distinguished mayor.

For almost 20 years, Coun Kath Rowson has offered a patient ear and a helping hand to the people of Ingthorpe ward, which she represents.

Now, as she plans to step down from the councillor role at next year’s local elections in May, she looks back on the time she spent at Town Hall.

She said: “I was born and bred in Blackpool. One of the first things I did, which took a while but started in the summer of 1999, was Winnipeg Place.

“It was a block of flats that were all old and battered. The whole area had got very run-down.

“I was approached by residents who lived there because it had got to the point where people wouldn’t approach the flats because of the reputation it had got.

“There were some very lovely people living there and we formed a residents’ association and in the end a large part of (the flats) was knocked down and replaced. It’s a lovely little area and I’m pleased to say the residents’ association is still thriving now.

“What was most memorable was the residents arranged for me to be the first to knock some of the old bricks out of the building.

“That, I was really pleased about, because it totally changed the lives of the people who lived there. Instead of looking at an awful, run-down place we were looking at a place that was new and stunning.”

Kath was elected as a Labour councillor for Ingthorpe in January 1999, following the death of previous councillor Arthur Drinkwater. Over the years she has thrown her weight behind numerous campaigns with the aim of improving the lives of local people.

She was the chairwoman of the Keep Blackpool Tidy Group and backed the Rethink Rubbish campaign, aimed at encouraging more people on the Fylde to recycle their waste, in the early 2000s.

She helped get portable speed cameras for her ward after residents’ complaints about speeding, and backed the council’s ‘30mph or less’ campaign.

She was also one of the main brains behind the North Blackpool Pond Trail – a footpath leading ramblers on a journey spanning 21 ponds, a lake, a flowering dyke, an orchard, woodlands and grasslands.

“It took us two or three years to get the grants for it, and it was worth it,” she said.

In 2016, she was given the honour of being named Mayor of Blackpool, taking over from previous mayor Peter Callow.

But just a few months later, midway through her mayoral year, she was forced to step down from some of her civic duties following the tragic death of her husband, Chris, following a battle with pancreatis.

The couple had celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary that year, and had been together for more than 50 years.

Fellow councillors Gary and Debbie Coleman took over some of her civic engagements while she mourned.

However, she soon picked up her mayoral chains and resumed her duties.

She said: “My year as mayor was a very mixed year. Obviously it’s an honour to be made mayor of your home town, but then in the October my husband died unexpectedly.

“Whereas normally as a councillor I would have taken leave and said I’ll let you know when I’m coming back, there’s only one mayor. I totally went into autopilot for the rest of the year.

“It may have been a struggle, but I said I wanted to go around and meet as many volunteers organising in the town as I could, the local residents who are quietly working for the town.”

Later that year, she helped Dame Esther Rantzen cut the ribbon at the grand opening of The Silver Line charity headquarters, on Amy Johnson Way, South Shore, where staff and volunteers provide friendship, support and advice to elderly people 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Now, in the year that marks two decades since her election, she plans to step down due to health concerns.

She said: “It’s very sad and I’ll miss it, but I have chosen to stand down. I’m over retirement age and my MS (multiple sclerosis) has gotten worse.

“I have always done walk-abouts around the ward and do meetings in the ward throughout the year. I don’t believe in just appearing throughout elections and I can’t do that any more.

“Amy Cross, my fellow councillor, said she could do it, but I don’t feel I would be doing my job. I find I can’t walk very far at all now.

“The North Blackpool Pond Trail will always be my baby. It’s made a huge difference up there. Kincraig is now a registered Blackpool heritage site.

“Just being able to help the constituents is great.

“I’m hoping my health will improve when I’m not so busy. I keep telling everybody that I’m going to become a lady that lunches, but no, I’m still involved in a lot of things.

“I will remain a member of the Friends of North Blackpool Pond Trail and the Friends of Stanley Park and the Civic Trust.

“For as long as it can be done, I will keep going.

“There are things that with the best will in the world are impossible to do and these are my only regrets. I’m just sorry I couldn’t do everything I’d have loved to have done.”

Councillor Gillian Campbell said: “ All the Labour Councillors are saddened that Kath has taken the decision to stand down at the next election, and even though we will all miss her, we understand her reasons for doing so. She has served her constituents passionately for 20 years, and I’m sure they will miss her also.

“She has been a fantastic advocate for Blackpool, especially at the times when she has served as Mayor, and Deputy Mayor. I have no doubt that she will continue to be a prominent member of the community”.