A FORMER Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York who campaigned to keep Rowntree’s open has died aged 82.

Malcolm James Heppell served Holgate ward and later Monk ward on City of York Council from 1969.

Mr Heppell was made Sheriff of York in 1976 when Jock Hibbert was Lord Mayor, and his role coincided with The Queen’s visit to the city as part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations.

In 1987 he took up the position as York’s First Citizen and moved into the Mansion House with his wife, Joyce, who he married in 1962. Together they had three children, John, Robert and Peter.

His time as Lord Mayor came during Nestle’s takeover of Rowntree’s - a move Mr Heppell was strongly against because he felt the confectioner was a York company and should remain in the city.

He led a delegation of senior councillors and company officials to Switzerland in what was ultimately an unsuccessful attempt to get Nestle to drop their takeover.

Mr Heppell also met with minister Michael Heseltine and urged the Government to step in.

His son, Robert, said his father was particularly upset a foreign company was trying to buy Rowntree’s, especially given the fact that Swiss companies were protected from overseas takeovers.

He added: “His passion was York and it was ‘his’ city.

“He never had any personal interest in national politics and while he loved Yorkshire, his main interest was always local politics.”

Away from campaigning, Mr Heppell presented the keys to the city to Prince Andrew when it was announced he was going to become Duke of York.

He also entertained Prince Charles at the Mansion House and welcomed officers and the crew of HMS York to the Lord Mayor’s home.

Mr Heppell was born on August 4, 1935, and was educated at Haughton Grammar School, in St Saviourgate.

He completed military service in the RAF from 1953 to 1956 and spent 39 years at British Rail, where he held jobs initially in the ticket and parcels office, before climbing the ladder to become the Regional Welfare Officer and retiring in 1992.

His funeral will take place at York Crematorium on Wednesday, November 29, from 12.20pm.