Alec pays tribute to former Council Leader, Peter Sparling MBE.

Former Leader of Leeds City Council, Peter Sparling MBE, has died aged 85.

Peter, who lived in Collingham, was a giant of Leeds politics in the late 1970s and remained active in Conservative politics as President of the Elmet & Rothwell Conservative Association. He dedicated his retirement to the arts and education in the region, receiving an MBE for his services in 2014.

A vocal advocate for the expansion of the arts scene in Leeds, he was instrumental in the formation of Opera North. Working alongside the 7th Earl of Harewood, Peter was a major force within the opera company, originally as a founder member in 1978, then as a director and latterly as Vice-Chairman. He has also been a director of West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leeds Grand Theatre.

Peter was educated at Leeds Grammar, beginning a lifelong affiliation with the school that led to him becoming Chair of Governors during a thirty year tenure on the Board of Governors.

He was the prime mover of the merger of Leeds Grammar School with Leeds Girls High School in 2005 to form a co-educational independent day school with 2,200 pupils. Through his leadership and direction, the school moved from a traditional institution to become a modern, vibrant educational establishment catering for a wide range of pupils in Leeds.


Peter rose to the top of local politics when he became Leader of Leeds City Council in 1979. On his retirement from Leeds City Council in 1987, he was appointed an Honorary Alderman of the City of Leeds.

Following the announcement of Peter’s death, Alec said: “Peter was a stalwart of Conservative politics in Leeds and our political family in Elmet & Rothwell won’t be the same without him. Outside of politics, those who worked with Peter know just how proud he was of the organisations he supported, particularly of Opera North but also of Bardsey Primary School and GSAL where he served as Chair of Governors”.