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Suffolk campaigner and business leader Michael Blakenham has died

PUBLISHED: 13:13 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:13 10 January 2018

Michael Blakenham was elected to Mid Suffolk council in 2007.  Picture: ARCHANT

Michael Blakenham was elected to Mid Suffolk council in 2007. Picture: ARCHANT

One of the best-known figures in business and local politics in Suffolk has died at the age of 79.

Michael Blakenham speaking against Snoasis at a public meeting in 2004. Picture: ARCHANTMichael Blakenham speaking against Snoasis at a public meeting in 2004. Picture: ARCHANT

Viscount Blakenham – who was known as Michael Blakenham while involved in local politics and environmental campaigns in Suffolk – was chairman and chief executive of the Pearson Publishing group from 1978 to 1997.

During his business career he saw off an attempt by Rupert Murdoch to take over Pearson in 1987 – at that time the group included the Financial Times newspaper.

After he retired from the company he returned home to Suffolk where he became a formidable environmental campaigner.

His father, John Hare, was the first Viscount Blakenham, taking the name from the family’s home village, and in 2004 Michael Blakenham helped to lead the fight against the proposal to develop the Snoasis ski resort in his home village.

This campaign delayed the proposal and forced a major public inquiry. Although planning permission was eventually granted, by the time this came through the economy had turned and it has still not been built.

The planning permission was lapsed last year and potential developer Godfrey Spanner has applied to renew it – but there is widespread disbelief that the scheme will ever happen.

Michael Blakenham’s involvement with the Snoasis campaign prompted him to stand for Mid Suffolk Council under the “Suffolk Together” banner. He was a member of the council for eight year until 2015.

Suffolk Together included other parties, among them the Greens whose leader on the council Andrew Stringer paid tribute to his former colleague.

He said: “Michael was a really wonderful person, a great councillor and a great champion of wildlife and our Suffolk environment.

“He was deputy leader of our group for eight years and was a real asset to the council and to our community. Our thoughts are with the family at this very sad time.”

Michael Blakenham leaves a widow, Marcia, a son and two daughters who have all achieved success. His son, Caspar Hare, is professor of philosophy at MIT in the US. Cressida Cowell is the author of the best-selling “How to Train your Dragon” children’s books and Emily Faccini is a renowned artist.

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