Neville Chapman: Norfolk County Council’s chairman served the community for more than 50 years

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A former chairman of Norfolk County Council, Neville Chapman, who has died aged 86, was also a parish councillor for more than 50 years.

As a Conservative, he was involved in the selection of John Hill as MP for South Norfolk and was later invited to a reception at Downing Street by then prime minister Sir Anthony Eden, who held office between 1955 and 1957.

Neville Gerald Chapman was born at Tacolneston, and his parents moved soon afterwards to Hill Farm, Forncett St Peter. Later, they moved to Lime Tree Farm.

He took over the mixed farm, which then became mainly arable with a laying flock. This allowed him to spend more time on public service as he became increasingly involved in local affairs at parish, district and later county level.

After a former headmistress of the village school, Mary Armstrong, was brutally killed, he – as chairman of Forncett Parish Council – led a 12-year campaign to close a hostel for ex-offenders.

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Through the efforts of South Norfolk MP John, now Lord, MacGregor and Lord Belstead, minister of state at the Home Office, the hostel was closed in 1992. Mr Chapman, one of the first members elected to South Norfolk Council in 1973, served for 30 years and was chairman in 1989, when he campaigned to provide more affordable housing for young people.

He had for many years stood as an independent Conservative because he opposed political labels in local government when he represented five villages, including Talcolneston. In May 1979, he polled twice as many votes as the official Conservative candidate.

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In 2010, he was made an honorary alderman of the council in recognition of his contribution to the district. Mr Chapman was particularly keen on enhancing leisure services and helped to obtain funding for Long Stratton's leisure centre and improvements to the Diss swimming pool complex.

He had been elected to Norfolk County Council in 1985 and when he became chairman in May 2003, it was the culmination of 50 years of public service.

A lifetime supporter of Norwich City Football Club, he was chairman of the county council's sub-committee for sports ground safety.

He leaves a widow, Patricia, daughter, Patricia and sons, Mark and Simon, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at St Michael and All Angels' Church, Bunwell on April 22 at 10.30am.

Michael Pollitt

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