The chairman of the Stevenage Community Trust has paid tribute to its founding president, film critic Barry Norman, who has died at the age of 83.

The veteran movie critic, who presented a much-loved BBC television film show from 1972 to 1988, died in his sleep at his Datchworth home on Friday night.

Mr Norman helped found the SCT in 1990 when he was at the height of his fame and served as its president, only retiring after 23 years at the age of 80.

Along with a small team of volunteers, Mr Norman helped create an endowment which formed the basis of the SCT – which has raised well over a million pounds for smaller charities and causes in Stevenage.

Current SCT chairman Rob Stewart told the Comet: “To have someone like Barry who was so well known as our first president was just incredible. It enabled us to attract so much support in the first few years and to put the endowment in place which means we can keep going.

“He was a wonderful ambassador for us and was great at entertaining and charming our local businessmen and community beneficiaries.

“He was so modest about his contribution and very few people know he served the community trust for 23 years.

“We will be forever thankful because we benefitted from his fame and he helped us put a rock solid foundation in place.”

Mr Norman’s daughters Samantha and Emma, said in a statement released through their father’s agent: “He had a great life, a wonderful marriage and an enviable career. He leaves behind a family who adore him and a great roster of friends who love him too.

“We will miss him more than we can say. He was remarkable.”

Barry Norman’s passion for films came from his father Leslie, a successful director who lived in retirement in Knebworth.

His career was legendary, and to several generations he was the defining voice of film criticism, and insightful interviewing of screen legends from both sides of the camera.

Besides his notable television work, his writing career spanned the glory days of old Fleet Street.

He came to Datchworth in 1957 after his marriage to Diana, an author known professionally as Ariana Franklin, who died in 2011.

During the 1980s, he became an increasingly familiar television face, inspiring professional impersonators, a Spitting Image puppet, and even a popular catchphrase – “And why not?”

Before his television career, he worked as a journalist for some years in South Africa, before returning to Britain and writing for papers such as The Daily Sketch, The Guardian, and The Daily Mail.