A FORMER town hall chief who spent decades fighting for a better deal for his area has found a new lease of life by combining his passions - painting and horses.

Neil Johnson took up his brush and has been tending his horses full-time since retiring as chief executive of Derwentside District Council six years ago.

This month he is featured as artist of the month at the Glass and Art Gallery in Medomsley Road, Consett.

Mr Johnson, who steered the district through the crisis of losing the Consett steelworks in 1980 and the challenge of building a new industrial base, said: "I had always enjoyed painting.

"I spent most of my life dabbling, working in oils and always looked forward to spending more time painting.

"Naturally horses creep into a lot of my paintings, but at the moment I am working on cats."

There has only been one drawback to his passion. "It has stopped me getting the rest of my house decorated," he said.