Tributes to Barnham and Felpham councillor - 'he was a man of great character'

Tributes have been paid to a West Sussex councillor and former detective inspector.

Flags flew at half mast outside Littlehampton’s Civic Centre on Monday (July 4) as a mark of respect for John Charles.

Mr Charles was a Conservative councillor for Barnham from 2011 until his death and was also a former cabinet member for planning.

Council leader Shaun Gunner said: “Councillor Charles – John – was a man of great character committed to public service. He worked as a police officer, he helped raise money for charity through the Freemasons, and he had 20 years of experience in local government as a Horsham district councillor, an Arun district councillor and more recently as a West Sussex county councillor.

Tributes have been paid to John Charles

“This public service he exhibited throughout his professional, political and personal lives is a testament to his character.

“I was first elected to Arun in 2019 and to some of the newer councillors he was a bit of a mentor, particularly on planning matters. He was widely respected across the chamber, not only for his strong views, but also his kindness in the time he would spend with newer councillors – across the chamber – in helping them in the role.

“When I became leader, he phoned me to tell me I was ‘a good lad’ and he would do whatever he could to help me and the council be successful. He always lived up to that commitment, and I speak for hundreds of people whose lives he touched when I say that he will be missed.”

One of Mr Charles’ fellow ward councillors Christopher Hughes said: “John contributed a great deal to the many committees he served on in his time as a district councillor and latterly a county councillor. He was a staunch Conservative and he liked nothing better than meeting residents whilst campaigning.

“He was always proud to attend the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday as he was often invited by various organisations via his connections over the years in the police force. I will always remember John, looking extremely proud wearing his black bowler hat on Remembrance Day. He will be sadly missed.”

Another Barnham councillor Isabel Thurston, served with Mr Charles on the planning committee and said: “On one occasion when I acted as chair he showed great kindness as my vice-chair for that meeting.

“We had our political differences, but on a personal level he was always courteous and good natured. He will be missed at Arun by councillors from all groups.”

Last year, Mr Charles was elected as the representative for Felpham at West Sussex County Council where he served on the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee and the Fire and Rescue Service Scrutiny Committee.

He campaigned for the Conservative Party since the age of 17 and, more recently, served as vice-president of the Bognor Regis Conservative Association.

Before he became a councillor, Mr Charles was a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police Force where he served for 30 years.

Mr Charles lived alone in Felpham following the death of his partner, Hilary, in July 2020.

He is survived by three children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

He also shared an extended family of one daughter and five grandchildren from Hilary’s previous marriage.