ONE of the most influential officers at St Helens Council is to retire from his role as director of urban regeneration, housing and culture.

Bob Hepworth will step down at the end of next month after 32 years at the local authority. The leader of council, Barrie Grunewald, was due to thank Mr Hepworth for his long service at last night’s full council meeting.

In a statement Cllr Grunewald said: “Through his work with Ravenhead Renaissance, Bob helped to transform large areas of industrial wasteland in the town and created land for successful inward investment.

“Bob’s commitment and enthusiasm has helped St Helens to transform the legacy of a town formerly based on coal, glass and chemical industries into a town with modern infrastructure and new and emerging companies.” In 2005 Mr Hepworth was awarded an MBE for his regeneration work.

He oversees a budget of £29.7m and 467 staff. The director’s role, which according to the council’s website currently commands a salary of £114,000.

The regeneration of St Helens remains a topic of significant debate as the traditional industries continue to fade and the town centre battles multiple difficulties.