TRIBUTES were paid to a former council leader when a street name was unveiled in his honour today (Wednesday April 23).

A road at the heart of a new multi-million pound development in Darlington has been named John Williams Boulevard after the council leader who served the town for more than 20 years.

John Williams MBE led Darlington Borough Council from 1991 to 2011 and was mayor of the town from 1994 until 1995, deputy mayor between 1993 and 1994 and ward member from 1979 until 2011. He died in July 2013 following a long battle with cancer.

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Members of Mr Williams’ family joined MPs and civic dignitaries to see John Williams Boulevard – at the heart of the Central Park development – officially named.

The street sign was unveiled by Mr Williams’ ten-year-old grandson Evan Watson.

Mr Williams’ widow Sheila said her husband would have been “honoured and humbled” by the recognition.

She said: “John took great pride in serving Darlington and as a family we have always been inspired by his achievements.

“It gives us such pride knowing that future generations will see this permanent testimony to someone we loved so much.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said the boulevard will be symbolic of the lasting legacy of Mr Williams.

He added: “It is fitting that his name will be on permanent display in Central Park, an area that shows that Darlington is a place where people want to live, work and do business.

“I am proud to have served with John as a ward councillor from 1979 and then as his Deputy Leader from 1991. I am looking forward to seeing this lasting reminder of a man who was passionate about Darlington.”

The town’s MP, Jenny Chapman, said Mr Williams would have been both proud and amused at the naming of the road.

She said the gesture was a fitting tribute to the man who, prior to his retirement, had played a large part in kickstarting the Central Park development.

John Williams Boulevard will act as a central spine road in the development, which will create thousands of potential job opportunities and will incorporate business and leisure facilities, hundreds of new homes, transport links and green space.