TRIBUTES have been paid to Chris Cooke, the community campaigner known throughout Brighton and Hove who has died following a fire in his flat.

The 48-year-old was taken to hospital in a critical condition after the blaze on Saturday evening on the 13th floor of Essex Place, Montague Street, Brighton.

He died in hospital today.

Mr Cooke was a respected and influential campaigner whose many roles included being chairman of the fundraising committee of the Rainbow Fund.

He was also a founding member of the St James’s Community Action Group and for many years responsible for Kemptown in Bloom.

He had chaired the Eastern Road Partnership, worked tirelessly on neighbourhood and community policing, and chaired Brighton and Hove LGBT Community Safety Forum until 2012, remaining the LGBT representative for the city's equalities and inclusion partnership.

Paul Kemp, director of Brighton Pride, described him as a great believer in community who "fought hard to make St James's Street a better place for everyone to live, whether straight or gay."

Mr Kemp added: "While others talked Chris would pick up the telephone and get things done. He made a unique contribution to the wider community in St James's Street and will be sadly missed."

Brighton and Hove City Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I’ve known Chris Cooke for many years and he was a determined campaigner for the St James’s Street area and the LGBT community.

"His death will come as a shock to everyone in the city who knew him, and all of our thoughts should be with his friends and family as we come to terms with this tragic event.”

Sharon Barr, landlady of The Zone bar and former organiser of the Pride St James’s street party, described Mr Cooke as "always a gentleman" who had "great community spirit."

She added: "He was always willing to volunteer to help. He always had a smile on his face and he cared deeply about the community."

Monsignor Jerome Lloyd was due to work with Mr Cooke on expanding Cherubs Kitchen, the project Mgr LLoyd founded that raises money for the homeless and provides catering training. 

He described Mr Cooke as a "great champion of social and community issues," adding: "His sudden passing will be a shock to many and his energy and networking for good causes and community projects will be hugely missed." 

Local campaigner Steve Parry said Mr Cooke was "above all, a community activist" as well as "gentle, sensitive and genuine."

He added: "He loved nothing better than seeing a practical and positive improvement to St James’s Street and Kemp Town, especially if he had fought long and hard on behalf of others who had decided something was needed.

"Chris trusted everybody, he listened to people’s concerns from wherever they came and, for someone who stood for election as a local councillor, was one of the most apolitical figures I have ever met in public life."

Ellis Collins, from Manchester Street shop Merlin and Ellis, described Mr Cooke as a "wonderful, supportive, gentle man."

She added: "He had time for many and supported me greatly at many events and also at my shop.

"This has shocked me greatly and I just hope he did not suffer too much at the end of his far too short life.

"Kemp Town has lost another shining star today."

The fire is not being treated as suspicious and the coroner has been informed, police confirmed.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is investigating its cause. No-one else was injured.

Mr Cooke lived with his partner in the flat, but The Argus understands he was alone at the time of the fire.