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Ousted NFDC leader Barry Rickman kicked off ruling Conservative group

THE former leader of New Forest District Council who resigned over breaking environmental regulations at a scrapyard he co-owns has been forced to leave the ruling Conservative group.

The news was confirmed to the A&T by NFDC's new leader, Cllr Edward Heron, who had been deputy during Cllr Rickman’s 12-year tenure at the top.

"Under the rules for Conservative groups, set nationally by the Conservative Party, Barry’s membership of the group was mandatorily suspended," Cllr Heron said.

Barry Rickman previously giving a speech at NFDC. He is sitting beside the the new leader, Cllr Edward Heron
Barry Rickman previously giving a speech at NFDC. He is sitting beside the the new leader, Cllr Edward Heron

"This was notified to the council’s chief executive and the council’s website updated some time ago.

"Upon the conclusion of the court case Barry may, if he wishes, apply to the Conservative group for his suspension to be lifted."

Asked by the A&T if he would make that application, Cllr Rickman replied: "I don’t know."

He added: "I’m just carrying on serving the ward of Boldre and Sway as an independent – as originally I did 38 years ago. I just happen to be doing it at the moment as an Independent."

Cllr Rickman added recent weeks had been a "stressful time in my life".

There was support for him from the New Forest East Conservative Association, which said he remained "a valued and trusted member".

It clarified that Cllr Rickman remains a Conservative Party member but is not taking the Conservative whip on the district council.

It means he is now the second independent member on NFDC alongside Cllr Jacqui England, who sits in the Lymington ward and was elected without party affiliation.

Asked about Cllr Rickman’s situation, the leader of NFDC's Liberal Democrat opposition group, Cllr David Harrison, joked: "We’re pleased to see Cllr Rickman move from the Conservative group to become an independent member.

"It’s clear that he, like the rest of us, has had enough of the chaos and ethics issues which threaten to overwhelm the Conservatives prior to the local elections."

As reported in the A&T, Cllr Rickman quit the leadership role after he pleaded guilty to flouting environmental regulations at the Rickman’s scrapyard he jointly owns with his brother, Robert Rickman, in Lower Mead End, Sway.

He said he had not been involved in the day-to-day running of the business. He later told to the A&T his resignation came after the "pressure brought in some quarters" had intensified.

The court case saw Cllr Rickman (63), of Heron Close, Sway, plead guilty at Southampton Magistrates’ Court 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.

His older brother Robert (67) 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 related to a period between 17th November 2017 and 9th October 2020.

At their hearing both men were bailed by district judge Richard Blake so they could "make the land good" and are due to return to face sentencing on 28th July.

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. He is married with two grown-up children and is a self-employed photographer by trade.

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