FOLLOWING the sad passing of former Torfaen councillor Neil Lewis, I would like to pay tribute to one of Blaenavon’s most respected characters.

Having worked closely with Neil for many years, I considered him a close and personal friend. I shared his passion for the regeneration of the Eastern Valley and supported his successful and thoroughly deserved MBE award for services to industrial heritage and to the community in Blaenavon.

Neil was crucially instrumental in helping reverse the fortunes of Blaenavon from a fading coal-mining town to a town in renaissance, boasted by World Heritage status which continues to have a massive influence on the town. More important, however, Neil was able to galvanise local people and community leaders to sustain the impetus for this remarkable challenge. Neil never stopped working to reclaim the soul of Blaenavon; working relentlessly as a town councillor, while also representing the Blaenavon ward at Torfaen council from 1996 until 2008.

Local government and the community of Blaenavon have lost a great man – everyone who knew him will dearly miss him and my thoughts are with his family.

Bob Wellington, Leader of Torfaen Counci