A councillor on Epping Forest district Council has died.

Penny Smith was ward councillor for Broadley Common, Epping Upland and Nazeing died aged 55 after a short illness.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “Councillors and members of staff at the council have been deeply shocked and saddened by this news.

“We would like to offer our most sincere condolences to councillor Smith’s family and friends.”

Tributes have been paid to Councillor Smith, who was a former chairman of council and member of the cabinet.

Council chairman Tony Boyce said: “We have not only lost a great councillor this morning, but a dear friend has passed away.

“Penny Smith was a great asset to the council, she listened and campaigned for her constituency for many years, she believed she could enhance our district into a better place to live. My thoughts are now with her family.”

Leader of council Chris Whitbread said: “We are very saddened to hear the news of the passing of Councillor Penny Smith.

“Penny has been a tremendous councillor, representing her constituency with commitment and compassion for over 15 years.”

Councillor John Knapman said: “Penny has held almost every important office within the council and was one of our very best councillors.

“As chairman of council she found her true niche and was a credit to us in everything she did.”