End of an era as Margaret Rogers says her goodbyes

FOR more than two decades she has pursued with a passion causes that have benefited the community she has served.

FOR more than two decades she has pursued with a passion causes that have benefited the community she has served.

Admired for her straight talk, dogged determination and enthusiasm, Margaret Rogers has been a political force to be reckoned with.

An honorary Alderman and former chairman of Devon County Council, Mrs Rogers will sever all ties with local government next month when she stands down from East Devon District Council.

The 80-year-old staunch Liberal Democrat is leaving East Devon to move to Harrogate, to be closer to her daughter.

She is to live in a bungalow almost opposite her, but jokes: "We are not so close that we will be able to bicker over the fence!"

Of course, in politics, Mrs Rogers has been a serious figure, often fighting Seaton's corner as a lone voice at top level.

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Born in west London, she attended school in Wimbledon before furthering her education at the London School of Economics where she met her late husband, Noel. They married in 1949, when they were both undergraduates.

Before training to be a teacher in the early 1950s, Mrs Rogers worked in administration for the Festival of Britain and aided students from Columbia University, who undertook educational studies in the UK.

She went on to teach part-time until 1959, when she joined the Maria Grey College, becoming a head of department. The college had been part of the women's movement and was "a very interesting place" she recalls.

The college then became part of the London Institute of Higher Education. Mrs Rogers was vice chairman of the Standing Committee in Education at London University.

In 1972, Mrs Rogers and her husband bought 1 Blue Ball Cottage in Branscombe - a place Mrs Rogers visited as a holidaymaker from the age of five months.

The couple moved into the cottage permanently in 1978 and were looking forward to a quiet retirement. Everything changed, however, just a year later.

"I was spurred into politics by the result of the 1979 election," Mrs Rogers told the Midweek Herald.

"I got involved with the local Liberals, because I could see Margaret Thatcher was going to bring confrontation and that it was going to be a very undemocratic and unhappy time for people.

"I thought 'I must do something about it'."

She was first elected to East Devon District Council in 1982. She lost the seat a few years later, but regained it in 1995 and, until next month, is still the district councillor for Seaton Rural.

Mrs Rogers was first elected to Devon County Council in 1985.

Looking back over her political career, she cites the development of the new Axmouth Bridge among her achievements.

Together with Noel, she fought to save Windsor Gardens from developers.

She has long expressed serious concern over lack of leisure facilities in Seaton, including lack of sports pitches.

If she had her way, a new youth facility would be provided in Scalwell Lane.

Without her 10-year campaign, the Stop Line Way cycle route may never have been given the go-ahead.

Mrs Rogers is concerned courses offered at St Clare's have been run down.

"The government has killed off community education for older people and I think it is short-sighted," she said.

Mrs Rogers says work undertaken by Seaton Development Trust was "very sound" but then "hijacked". "I think the interests of the people of Seaton have been lost sight of," she said. "I am afraid Seaton will be laid to waste without achieving what it needs, but I'd be very pleased to see otherwise."

Mrs Rogers says she has always been motivated by doing the right thing and voting the right way. "If I think something is a good idea, I support it," she said. "Others will vote something down - if their party hasn't thought of it."

Mrs Rogers' resignation will lead to a by-election and she is hoping that whoever fills her shoes has a passion for the interests of local people and not power. A keen supporter of a Unitary Devon, she says the government's support for a unitary Exeter is "folly".

Although she is looking forward to planting her new garden and joining societies in Harrogate, she also intends to "do a bit of writing".

She will also remain a member of the Lib Dems. "I will do my bit," she says.

Margaret Rogers has given a huge chunk of her life to the people of Seaton and district and, as the Herald was going to press, a party was being held in her honour in the town hall.

Although she will be many miles away, she says she will still read the Midweek Herald (online) and that we can expect the occasional letter!