A FORMER council leader who left distinctive marks on the town has died.

Honorary Alderman John Hanscomb, the first leader of Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council in 1973, died overnight on Wednesday in his 90s.

Cllr John Walsh, who served on the council with him and counted him as friend described his death as a personal loss.

Cllr Walsh, said: "It's a great loss of a friend. I have been saddened by his death and my sympathies go to his wife, Norma and daughter, Lindsay.

"It's a great loss personally as a source of advice and support when I needed that."

Mr Hanscomb moved to Bolton when he was quite young and Cllr Walsh said he saw himself as a "Boltonian".

Mr Hanscomb flew Spitfires for the RAF during the war and continued as a pilot afterwards, evening owning his own light aircraft for a time.

He lived in a house he built himself in Heaton and was councillor for that ward and later for Deane-cum-Heaton.

During his time as leader, 1974 to 1980, while the Conservatives controlled the borough, he began work on what was to become The Market Place Shopping Centre.

Cllr Walsh revealed that even after the Conservative group was ousted from power, the new Labour leader, Robert Howarth, asked that then Cllr Hanscomb continue to lead negotiations for funding.

Cllr Walsh said: "He never really got the full credit for that."

As council leader Mr Hanscomb presided over the joining of seven authorities to become Bolton Metropolitan Borough.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Cllr Walsh said of Mr Hanscomb: "He had his own views and wasn't afraid of standing up for them and his opinions. You have got to give him credit for that."

Cllr Walsh remembered a time when they both took a stand against council officers to prevent the old nurses home in Chorley New Road from being demolished. The Georgian row still stands in the road as offices.

Tragedy struck Mr Hanscomb in 1991 when his son Dr Nicholas Hanscomb was killed after being stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival.

Cllr Walsh said: "That was terrible shock to John, that really did upset him. For many years, even a few weeks ago, fondly referred to 'his son Nick'."

He is survived by his wife and daughter and is expected to have a civic funeral.

Bolton Town Hall flag will be flown at half mast.