'De facto' leader of Ryedale Council and farmer dies after being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties

A long-serving Ryedale district councillor has died, his party has announced.

John Clark stood for election in the Thirsk and Malton constituency several times

A long-serving Ryedale district councillor has died, his party has announced.

Coun John Clark, who had served the Cropton ward on the district council since 2003, passed away on Wednesday.

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His age has not been confirmed and he farmed 100 acres at Cropton Mill near Pickering.

The Liberal Party, of which Coun Clark was a member, tweeted: “We are sad to report John Clark from Ryedale, died [on Wednesday] after being admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties.

“Our thoughts are with Cathy and family at this time.”

Coun Clark was the chairman of Ryedale Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, which made him the de facto leader of the authority after councillors chose not to elect a councillor to the official role of leader.

He also stood as a Liberal Party candidate in four general elections for the Thirsk and Malton constituency and was a member of North Yorkshire County Council for eight years.

Coun Mike Potter, a member of Ryedale’s Liberal group, said it was a “devastating” loss to the community.

He said: “John’s been a stalwart of local politics for 40 years. Everything he has ever done has been with honesty and integrity, and for the community, which is possibly something that you cannot say about a lot of politicians.

“It was always a struggle to get elected, simply because it is a strong Conservative area. So you have got to try and convince people that it is worth voting for an alternative, if that is not your particular brand of politics.

“When you are not particularly in a position of great power you can’t make rash promises about things that you are going to do or not going to do.

“So it would always be honest, work hard and ask the awkward questions. And that is exactly what he always did.”

Mr Potter said Coun Clark would always fight “for the underdog” and was a farmer who fought to raise awareness of climate change.

He added: “He would never compromise and he was a very clever man. He would think deeply about everything he could argue in an empty room and the annoying thing was that 95 per cent of the time he would be right.

“He based his views on hard evidence, not personal preferences and he would always play the devil’s advocate, he would always argue the other side.

“But once he decided and made his mind up based on good evidence there was precious little shifting him.”