Sussex

Hastings Councillor Jeremy Birch death: Tributes pour in

Former Hastings Borough Council leader Jeremy Birch
Image caption Friends, colleagues and local people have been signing a book of condolence opened in the town

Tributes are pouring in for the leader of Hastings Council who died after suffering a stroke at the age of 63.

Jeremy Birch had been a member of the council since 1998 and led it for 13 years, over two separate periods.

A book of condolence has been opened in the Town Hall and a flag is being flown at half mast as a mark of respect.

Peter Chowney, of Hastings Council, described his friend as "a tireless fighter for what was right and good". He added: "I can't believe he is gone."

The Labour councillor was taken to hospital after falling ill last week and was placed in a medically-induced coma.

On Wednesday, Mr Birch's partner issued announced his death.

A minute's silence was held during the election count on Thursday, the council said.

'Enormous sadness'

Deputy Leader Peter Chowney has taken over Mr Birch's duties. A personal friend of Mr Birch, he has spoken of his "enormous sadness".

He added: "My thoughts are with his partner Louise and his family at this terrible time."

Image caption Mr Birch lived all his life in the town and was a "tireless fighter" for local issues, said friends

Councillor Chowney said Mr Birch had dedicated his life to the borough's regeneration. He praised his "unswerving devotion to the place he was born in".

In a message to his friend, he added: "Goodbye Jeremy - you were a worthy son of Hastings, a tireless fighter for what was right and good, and a true socialist. We'll never forget you."

'Larger than life'

Hastings & Rye Labour Councillor Sarah Owen also paid tribute to a "friend and inspiration". She added: "We will all miss him deeply."

The Mayor of Hastings, Councillor Bruce Dowling, said he had lost "a real friend" and was "personally devastated".

He added: "Our meetings, Hastings Borough Council, and Hastings the town, will not be the same."

Image caption The flag is being flown at half mast at the town hall in Hastings

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