District council leader admits 'curse on the community' scrapyard offence
THE leader of New Forest District Council said he intends to carry on with his role after he pleaded guilty to flouting environmental regulations at a scrapyard which had caused a “curse on the community”.
Cllr Barry Rickman and his brother, Robert Rickman, were today (Friday) given six months by a judge to sort out the problems at Rickman’s Scrapyard that they jointly own in Lower Mead End, Sway.
The offence by Cllr Rickman, a Conservative, prompted calls from Liberal Democrats for him to stand aside until the case was concluded. He will be sentenced later.
Few details were given at the hearing at Southampton Magistrates’ Court, but district judge Richard Blake heard the problems at the site related to machinery and materials being cleared from there.
“Quite clearly the land needs to be made good,” Judge Blake told the brothers as they stood in the dock.
“The substantial mitigation will be the manner in which you deal with this land and make it good. I think it’s appropriate that you are given the opportunity.
“This is in a rural area and is clearly a curse on the community in the position it is.
“[At sentencing] I will want to know the manner in which it is done does put it right, does not pose any further problems, and is dealt with appropriately and in the line with regulations.”
The prosecution was led by the Environmental Agency and Judge Blake said he would defer sentence until 28th July.
Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Rickman said he was “reasonably pleased” at the outcome, adding he regarded it as a “private manner”.
He added: “Now I am able to get on with my valuable work with New Forest District Council.”
Cllr Rickman (63), of Heron Close, Sway, pleaded guilty to a charge that he knowingly caused/permitted a person to operate a regulated waste operation facility that dealt with the deposit, treatment and or storage of waste, without authorisation of an environmental permit, this afternoon (Friday).
His brother older (67), who gave his address as Rickman’s Scrapyard, Mead End Road, admitted a single matter of conducting/causing or knowingly permitting activity in contravention of an environmental permit in relation to the waste operation.
The charges for both men relate to a period between 17th November 2017 and 9th October 2020 at Lower Mead End Road, Sway.
Cllr Rickman represents the Boldre and Sway ward on NFDC. As leader, he heads the authority’s ruling cabinet and he is also chair of the human resources committee.
He was urged by the opposition Liberal Democrat group on NFDC to stand aside as leader until the case had concluded fully.
A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We respect that this is a personal matter for Cllr Rickman, however, we believe the best course of action for the council and New Forest taxpayers would be if Cllr Rickman stood aside from his position as leader of the council until any legal process has reached a conclusion.”
Cllr Rickman was first elected to NFDC in 1983 and initially served for five years. He returned to the council in 1995 and has been a member ever since. He is also a member of the national park authority.
When the A&T contacted NFDC yesterday, a spokesperson would only say: “This is a personal and private matter relating to Barry Rickman.
“It is not a council matter and the council does not intend to comment further.”
Chair of New Forest Lib Dems, Jack Davies, called for Cllr Rickman to resign from the council: “The New Forest Liberal Democrats are passionate about protecting our environment. That’s why we were disappointed to hear Cllr Barry Rickman plead guilty to flouting environmental regulations.
“These regulations are in place to protect our environment and everybody else has to follow them. How can the Conservatives say, with a straight face, that they want to protect the environment if they let their leader get away with this?
“Therefore, it is with deep regret that we call for Cllr Barry Rickman to resign as leader of the council so that people’s confidence in the council can be restored.”
Cllr Rickman is married with two grown-up children and is a self-employed photographer by trade.