A former council leader will step down due to ill health after serving the city for 30 years.

Councillor Mary Mears, who served as leader of Brighton and Hove City Council between 2008 and 2011, suffered a stroke last year and has not been able to attend council meetings.

While she was provided some time to recover by the council, Cllr Mears has been unable to return to the council chamber.

During her time as a councillor, she oversaw the planning permission and development of the Amex Stadium and secured more than £1 million in investment to deliver the restoration of Saltdean Lido.

Cllr Mears, who represented Rottingdean Coastal, had been due to serve as Mayor of the city this year, but was unable to do so due to her ill health.

The Argus: Mary Mears will step down as councillor for Rottingdean CoastalMary Mears will step down as councillor for Rottingdean Coastal (Image: Brighton and Hove Conservatives)

In a council budget meeting last night, Conservative group leader Steve Bell paid tribute to Cllr Mears and her achievements over three decades of service.

She said: “Mary is a true Brightonian and loved the east of the city, with her deep links to Whitehawk, Rottingdean and Woodingdean, where residents know her well.

“It was cruel on Mary that she suffered a stroke last year just before she was set to take on the Mayoralty of the city, which she was so looking forward to and had been approaching with such energy.

“We would like to thank the council for giving Mary an opportunity to recover and continue as a councillor, which sadly has not been possible.

“We would also like to thank the many people and councillors who have sent their best wishes and visited Mary personally as she continues rehabilitation.”

The Argus: Councillor Mary Mears, right, with Councillor Anne Meadows, left, and Councillor Dawn BarnettCouncillor Mary Mears, right, with Councillor Anne Meadows, left, and Councillor Dawn Barnett (Image: Brighton and Hove Conservatives)

Cllr Dawn Barnett, a close friend and colleague of Cllr Mears, said she was “very upset” to see her in the condition she has been in since her stroke.

Cllr Barnett said: “Mary was the person who, when I was first elected in 2004, took me under her wing and showed me the ropes.

“We worked together on the housing committee and on social housing, in particular, which was always Mary’s priority throughout her time on the council.

“She was a fantastic leader of the council and very well-liked among other councillors. She was always enthusiastic about everything and, even when she was a leader at the Town Hall, she always made time for the residents in her ward and across the city.

“I visit Mary weekly, as do others, and am very upset to see her in the condition she has been in through the stroke; so dependent on others, when she was someone who used to be the one that looked after others.”

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Current leader of the council Phelim Mac Cafferty passed on his best wishes to Cllr Mears and thanked her for her many years of service to the people of Brighton and Hove.

He said: “We crossed swords many times but fundamentally no one can take away from her that she was repeatedly re-elected.

“Out of the tussle of public political debate, Mary won the esteem of councillors from all political group and none and continuously worked on behalf of residents and council housing tenants all over the city.”

No by-election will take place in Rottingdean Coastal, as city-wide local elections will take place in May.