Tributes paid to former council chairman and ‘wonderful’ mother

A former chairman of the Horsham District Council, who served in the late 1970s, has died. Her daughter Anthea Boylston has submitted the following tribute:

Saturday, 25th October 2014, 6:00 pm
Avocet Phelps meeting the Queen SUS-141014-164906001

Avocet Phelps, who died recently in Winchester at the age of 94 years, had the honour of being chairman of Horsham District Council in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and of welcoming Her Majesty on March 10, 1978, to the Forest School at Horsham with Mr Charles Lucas, Chairman of West Sussex County Council.

In June of the previous summer she had greeted HRH Princess Alexandra who came to open the Park Recreation Centre.

Mrs Phelps lived in Rusper for a total of 54 years. During this time she represented the village on the former Horsham Rural District Council from 1965 to 1973, then Rusper and Colgate on the Horsham District Council, finally becoming vice-chairman of the council in 1976 and its Chairman in 1977.

Mrs Phelps was also a parish councillor for Rusper and a governor of Rusper County Primary School, which she remained until her retirement in 1996.

On the Horsham District Council, she served on all the principal committees, her main interests being planning, housing and public health. She was very concerned about the effect of the expansion of Gatwick and was an active member of the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee.

She was known for her principled stand on many issues and for her frank speaking. Here is a piece about her from the West Sussex County Times on 11 March 1983: “She is an object lesson which others would do well to emulate, in how to say what’s on your mind without making a twit of yourself in the process. She has achieved this attribute, in part, through knowing what she’s talking about. She may sometimes come to different conclusions from the whole of the rest of the council, but not though ignorance. She bones up on her agendas before meetings more assiduously than anybody.

“She’s known to be a shocker for prolonging debates on planning applications whenever there’s a question of noise nuisance involved, and she keeps the sharpest weather eye of all the council’s members on the expansion of Gatwick Airport. About which she is most unhappy.

“She may be thought conservation-mad by some fellow councillors, but she is respected by all of them for her sincerity and conscientiousness. Without her, the peace-and-quiet brigade in council would lose its most articulate voice.”

Until her death, Avocet Phelps remained an active member of the Council for the Protection of Rural England. She had grown up in East Sussex and her life was defined by a love of the countryside. She shared with her husband Jack a keen interest in the arts, especially in music. She will be greatly missed by her four daughters and six grandchildren.

She created a warm and wonderful home at Quincefold where we had dogs, a cat, ponies and rabbits. Jack and Avocet had a busy social life, largely based on Jack’s tennis and real tennis matches, as well as hosting old and new friends for Sunday lunch and weekend visits.

All these guests remember Avocet’s wonderful cooking and hospitality.”

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