Tributes have been paid to a long-serving labour councillor and civic hero, who earned the highest accolade bestowed by the council as a Freeman of Croydon.

Adrian Stephen Dennis died at the age of 67 last Friday, March 27, after a short time in hospital following an operation.

Tributes have flooded in for the former Thornton Heath councillor and deputy council leader, described as “the best example to be found of a good, capable and decent man doing public service”.

Adrian was born on December 12, 1952 in Penzance and later graduated with a BSc Hons Degree in Geography from the London School of Economics in 1974.

He completed Postgraduate studies at the University of North London earning a Diploma in Town Planning, with Distinction in Thesis, in 1978 and became a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

He started with stints working for Westminster City Council and Southwark Council in planning, where he worked on plans for the London Bridge Quarter, London Bridge Station, and later served as Lead Case Officer on the London Bridge Tower – now The Shard.

He was a Labour Party member and described as a trade unionist “through and through”.

He was elected as Labour councillor for Thornton Heath in 1986 having moved there with his family in 1979.

As a Councillor he held many important positions, including Labour Chief Whip and Chair of the Planning and Environment Committee.

By 1997 he was appointed Deputy Leader of Croydon Council and was Cabinet Member for Planning, Environment and Regeneration between 2000 and 2006. It was during this period that Thornton Heath’s £8m, then state of the art, leisure centre was built.

In 2006 he was recognised for his exceptional contributions to civic life when he was made an Honorary Alderman and Freeman of Croydon, becoming the second Labour councillor to achieve the title of Freeman in the 130 years since Croydon obtained its royal charter.

Adrian gave freely of his time organising Thornton Heath’s annual street festival. He became a Trustee of CACFO UK, a Thornton Heath based charity with a Day Centre for the elderly and school for pupils excluded from mainstream education; and was Chair of Croydon Disability Forum.

He championed the rights of excluded and disadvantaged groups to his last.

Cllr Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, said: “Adrian always had time to help and support others, but he did expect you to grasp the details of what he was explaining first time around, which was fine if it was the minutes of the previous meeting, and somewhat more challenging if it was all 900 pages of the Councils local plan.

“And if you then got an email on the issue at 3am you knew you were in trouble. But nobody really minded because underneath everyone knew he had a heart of gold.”

He is survived by his wife Flim Dennis; daughter Nening Dennis; son Philip Dennis; and brothers Robert and Martin Dennis.

A memorial service is planned for when the coronavirus crisis passes, but no date has yet been set.