The district council flag flew at half mast yesterday in honour of the councillor for Chipping Ongar.

On Monday it was announced Brian Surtees had died.

Councillors and council officers will observe a minute's silence in his memory at the next full council meeting on February 22.

The former Ongar town councillor had represented the Chipping Ongar, Greensted and Marden Ash Ward for the Liberal Democrats since 2014.

“Brian’s death came as a great shock," said Councillor Jon Whitehouse, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Epping Forest District Council (EFDC).

“He was someone who believed in service and in helping others. He demonstrated that commitment in his professional life, in his ministry for the Church of England and in his service on Ongar Town Council and the district council.”

“I will miss him greatly and my thoughts are with his family and close friends.”

Tributes also poured in from Conservative quarters, including council leader of councillor Chris Whitbread.

He said: “Brian was a hard-working councillor, always friendly and thoughtful. I was saddened to hear of his death, he will be missed by all who knew him.”

“I offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

During his time in office he had sat on a number of committees and chaired the licensing committees.

Independent councillor Stephen Murray said: "Working with Brian over the years was always a privilege and a pleasure.

He was a true gentleman , who always thought carefully about his contributions and interventions to the issues we discussed at EFDC.

"He was always happy to bring his Christian faith to bear on his public duties and obviously cared deeply for Ongar in particular and the district in general.