‘Exceptional’ Peter Bolt is made Freeman

He received the prestigious accolade from the Mayor, Jill Anderson, at a small, private ceremony.

It is the highest award that a local authority can bestow, and is awarded to people who have ‘made a significant contribution to the local area or have achieved something outstanding’.

Mr Bolt, 92, is the borough’s longest standing councillor; he retired in April after 40 years representing Judd ward as a Conservative. He was first elected in 1976, and has served for all but four years since then.

Before that he spent five years on the town’s Urban Council, the forerunner to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council – and said: ‘I’m the only one left’.

Mr Bolt, who worked in insurance for United Friendly in London, arrived in the town in 1965 with his wife Margaret, to whom he has been married for 55 years – they have two children.

He told the Times: “It was the floods of 1968, they were so serious and damaging, I thought it was time that residents had real representation to alleviate the problem – though it took a long time.

“To start with there was the flood barrier put up [in 1982], it was the reason I got elected. I was right at the front of it.”

He was also instrumental in the construction of Woodgate Way in the 1980s, which diverts traffic from the south-eastern corner of town onto the industrial estate.

“So I’ve been responsible for stopping two surges, one was the water, the other was the traffic.”

Among his many official roles, he was Chairman of Highways on the town council, then Chairman of Housing for the borough.

He also chaired the Policy & Best Value Committee, which reported on the performance of each council department.

“That was a unique privilege,” he recalled. “But I thought there was bound to be a kickback.

“I spoke at Full Council before the Leader, saying the direction we were going to take.

“It was very revealing, I certainly learned a lot about the workings of each department.”

The Mayor read from the Roll of Honorary Freeman that stated he was conferred the honour ‘in recognition of his eminent services’. Mr Bolt then signed the Roll.

Cllr Anderson said: “It gives me very great pleasure to present Peter with his Scroll of Investiture as Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Tonbridge & Malling.

“He has not only served the council with great distinction, but has also been a valued resident who has done so much for the community over the years.

“I am delighted that his exceptional contribution to the borough and to local life have been recognised in this way.”

Cllr Mark Hood, who represents the Green Party in Judd ward with April Clark after they ousted the Tory incumbents, paid tribute to his predecessor.

“Peter was an incredibly hard-working councillor and I cannot think of anyone who was more committed to the interests of residents and the town over such a long period,” he said.

“He knew I would never vote for him yet he always knocked on my door and responded to any inquiry. He is a true gentleman.”

Peter Bolt is one of 22 individuals who have been accorded the Freedom of the Borough. It can also be bestowed on sports teams, rescue services or forces units based in the borough, and the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and the Royal Air Force 29 Squadron have been recipients.

The award does not convey with it any legal rights or responsibilities, other than a ceremonial role at civic functions. It dates back to the Middle Ages when Freemen had commercial privileges such as exemption from tolls. Later they were often the only people who could vote in Parliamentary elections.

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