THE founder of a Cockermouth arts centre - and saviour of an historic town building - has died, on his 87th birthday.

Peter Colley was former chief planning officer for Allerdale.

He later went on to lead the rescue of a former Victorian school, which was transformed into The Kirkgate Centre.

His wife, Barbara, said: “On retirement, he witnessed the demolition of Millers’ chimney in Cockermouth and could see a similar threat to the former All Saints’ School.

“As a member of the Cockermouth Civic Trust, then its vice-chairman, he recognised the architectural merits of the building, alongside its community potential.

“Convinced it was not the dangerous structure described, he asked English Heritage to send a consultant.

“Together they examined the building, mutually agreeing that it was sound.”

After a public meeting and fundraising campaign, the 1867 property was finally acquired for the Kirkgate Centre Trust.

The father of three, who was supported by his wife, was responsible for the design and management of both phases.

Mrs Colley said: “He was a keen orienteer and related well with people from every walk of life, including colleagues and councillors.

“We were also active supporters of the Cockermouth/Marvejols twinning, which lead to exchange visits and lasting friendships.”