TRIBUTES are pouring in following news of the death of stalwart councillor Richard Welch.

Richard, 67, was ward councillor for the Penyghent ward for Craven District Council, while also being a member of North Yorkshire County Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

He died peacefully yesterday in Airedale Hospital after a short illness.

One of his sons, Ian, said his dad loved being a councillor and worked hard for the residents in his ward because he cared so much for the district.

"He was also a great dad and grandad and we will all miss him."

One council colleague who had known him for many years at district and county level, as well as with the national park, was Cllr Robert Heseltine.

He said: "In public life Richard Welch will always be remembered as a robust and forthright champion for all the electorate, residents and businesses he represented.

"In debate, determination was perhaps more to the fore than subtlety, but invariably laced with humour and a dash of self-deprecation.

"Richard was prominent in planning matters at Craven District Council, impartially chairing the planning committee for many years. His development, control expertise and environmental sensitivity was of sound value to the YDNPA and the North Yorkshire County Council.

"After his family his abiding support was for Burnley Football Club, hence not a meeting went by without mention of their latest exploits. It is absolutely fitting that in the week that Richard is no longer with us, the score at Anfield was Liverpool 0 Burnley 1. Well done Richard Welch, 'Up the Clarets'.

"Looking back we didn't always agree with each other but the vast majority of time we were on the same wavelength."

Councillor Richard Foster, Leader of Craven District Council, added: “I am going to sorely miss Richard. He always had an opinion and it was always driven by trying to improve the lives of Craven residents. He not only mentored me when I first came on the Council but also when I joined the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

“He had a unique style and will leave a large hole in the organisations he represented so well. My thoughts are with his family at this really difficult time.”

Cllr Carl Lis, also a district and county councillor and YDNPA member added: "It’s still really difficult to believe that we will no longer hear Richard's views on a whole plethora of subjects both at CDC and YDNPA meetings.  A passionate supporter of his community and his love of the way of life and protection of all matters associated with that.

"I first came across him over 30 years ago when I worked at the quarry in Ingleton, first of all as a haulier and then driving the road sweeper.  Subsequent to that as a fellow councillor at Craven District Council.  He never forgot his time working in the quarrying industry and was a staunch advocate of the continuation of the industry in the Dales.

"I remember particularly well his time as chairman of the CDC planning committee where he excelled.  His ability to ensure that everyone was afforded the same level of input and his overall capacity to measure the pros and cons of applications was something that I always admired.

"We didn’t always agree but he had that ability, that was so valued and increasingly rare, of leaving his views in the correct place and continuing to be a loyal friend and colleague."

District and county council colleague Cllr David Ireton added: "Richard was a committed, long serving councillor who represented the Ward of Penyghent as district councillor and Ribblesdale as county councillor steadfastly.  He served on many committees and as chairman of the planning committee, which he undertook for nine years, he always dealt with applications with a firm but fair attitude.  He was passionate about serving the communities he represented and he will be sadly missed by his fellow councillors and electorate and my thoughts are with his family at this very sad time."

Cllr Dan Balsamini, mayor of Settle Town Council also paid tribute saying: "I feel great sadness to hear of the passing of Councillor Richard Welch. He was a true champion for Settle and the wider area that he represented. He knew the residents in his area, and they knew him. He was dedicated to the people of Settle, whom he served for so long. I personally have benefited from Richard's insights and counsel over the years and I will be eternally grateful for that.

"His passing is a real loss to this area on a parish, district and county level and I wish his family all the best in these difficult times."

Chair of the YDNPA, Neil Heseltine, said:  “Richard Welch had a dry sense of humour and was a joy to talk to.  He came from a tradition of hardworking Dales country folk and was fiercely loyal to his constituents whether at district or county level or as a member of the National Park Authority. 

“His outstanding achievement at the National Park Authority was to always make sure members paid due regard to the importance of industries outside of farming to the National Park, particularly quarrying. He was a passionate advocate of industry and how it can help sustain rural communities.”

Richard leaves his wife, Jean, sons Ian and Darren and grandchildren Charlie, Daniel and Harriet.

A full tribute will appear in the Herald on Thursday.