AN EDEN councillor is to return to Britain’s television screens as one of the stars of a landmark documentary series which has featured the lives of the same group of people for almost half a century.

Neil Hughes, a Liberal Democrat who represents Shap, first appeared in the ITV programme 7 Up in 1964. The original programme, intended to be a one-off World In Action special, followed the lives of a group of children from different backgrounds and social spheres.

The youngsters talked about their hopes and dreams for the future, with young Neil endearing himself to viewers by declaring his ambition to be a NASA astronaut - or a coach driver if NASA would not have him.

Since then his life with all its trials and tribulations has been revealed every seven years in updates of the award-winning series.

In particular, Mr Hughes was shown suffering a series of setbacks in his 20s and 30s and at one point was living rough in a remote bothy in the Scottish Highlands. But subsequent documentaries revealed how he turned his life around.

He moved to Bampton in Eden 12 years ago and threw himself into the local community by doing voluntary charity work and becoming a parish and district councillor.

The latest instalment, 56 Up, to be broadcast over the next three weeks, has been made by director Michael Apted, who made all the previous programmes and who has also directed Hollywood films such as Gorky Park, The World Is Not Enough and Gorillas in the Mist.

Yesterday, Mr Hughes was reluctant to talk about the upcoming documentary, merely observing cryptically: “It has happened as it has happened.” But his participation was praised by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP and Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron.

“I remember seeing Neil in 28 Up and thought then that he was the star of the show - by far the most interesting person on the programme,” said Mr Farron. “Since then the programme has featured the ups and downs of his life and the way he has come through is inspirational.

“Neil is a hard working and serious-minded local councillor. He’s been a huge blessing to Eden and Shap in particular.”

The first of three episodes of 56 Up will be broadcast on Monday (May 14) at 9pm.