Tributes to former Leeds City Council leader and Leeds Grammar School governor Peter Sparling

Peter Norman Sparling, who has died aged 85.
Peter Norman Sparling, who has died aged 85.
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A former Leeds City Council leader described as a "stalwart" of Conservative politics in Leeds has died.

Tributes have been paid to Peter Norman Sparling, who oversaw the merger of two of the city’s biggest single-sex private schools in 2005, following his death aged 85.

First elected as a councillor in 1968, he rose to become leader of the city’s Conservative party as it claimed partial victory in the 1979 local elections.

Mr Sparling, who was a councillor for 19 years, also served as leader of the council until 1980.

Following his retirement in 1987, he was appointed an Honorary Alderman of the City of Leeds.

Contribution to education and the arts

Away from politics, Mr Sparling, who lived in Collingham, served as chairman during a 30-year stint on Leeds Grammar School’s board of governors.

He helped oversee the merger between then single-sex schools Leeds Grammar School and Leeds Girls High School, in 2005, to form a co-educational independent day school with 2,200 pupils.

Mr Sparling was also involved in the formation of Leeds’ Opera North arts organisation, of which he was a founding member when it first launched in 1978.

He also served as a director at West Yorkshire Playhouse, now known as Leeds Playhouse, and Leeds Grand Theatre.

In 2014, Mr Sparling was named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to local politics, the arts and education.

Tribute

Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet & Rothwell, was among those to pay tribute to Mr Sparling this weekend.

“Peter was a stalwart of Conservative politics in Leeds and our political family in Elmet & Rothwell won’t be the same without him," he said.

"Outside of politics, those who worked with Peter know just how proud he was of the organisations he supported, particularly of Opera North but also of Bardsey Primary School and GSAL [the Grammar School at Leeds] where he served as Chair of Governors”.

'Pride' after MBE award

Speaking at the time when he received the MBE, he said: “I am most proud of being involved in the foundation of Opera.

"I was born in Leeds and I have always wanted to do what I could to promote the organisations within the city.”

Mr Sparling was in Leeds on December 24, 1933, and was educated at Leeds Grammar.

After qualifying as a solicitor in the city, he went on to become a senior partner at Blacks Solicitors before moving into local politics.

Mr Sparling also served as president of the Elmet & Rothwell Conservative Association.

He leaves behind his wife, Bettie, and two children.