Tributes have been paid to a "knowledgeable and well-respected" Rochford District councillor who has died suddenly.

Chris Black, Liberal Democrat councillor for Downhall and Rawreth in Rayleigh, passed away yesterday from what is believed to have been a heart attack.

The 59-year-old leaves behind his wife Elena Black and one son.

The Leader of Rochford District Council, councillor Terry Cutmore said : "We were deeply saddened and shocked to learn of Cllr Chris Black’s passing.

"Our thoughts and prayers are naturally with his family at this very difficult time, his energy and determination to represent local residents was unquestionable and he was widely respected by all across the political spectrum."

Chris joined Rochford District Council as District Councillor for Downhall ward on 3 May 1984.

Following an electoral boundary review in 2002, he represented the Downhall and Rawreth ward until October 2017 and was the longest serving Rochford District Councillor.

He was Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group from 1993 to 1995 and from 2002 to 2017.

Liberal Democrat chairman Steve Tellis said: "I have known Chris for more than 30 years.

"When he first thought about joining the council, I encouraged him to do that.

"Since then, he has been a very good councillor and was very well-respected by all the residents.

"He was a very active councillor who had many important achievements, including his hand in the refurbishment of Rayleigh town centre.

"He always gave up his time to his residents and they clearly appreciated it as they gave him such a huge majority every time.

"He was a very thoughtful and very intelligent man."

John Mason, leader of the council’s opposition, said: “Chris was a generous friend and someone I’ve spent a lot of time with.

“He was always full of advice which was well-meant and respectful and I’m going to miss him incredibly.

“The district has lost one of the best councillors that has ever served.”