Truce is called at Rowlands Castle Parish Council

Councillor John Pickering has stepped down as chairman of Rowlands Castle Parish Council
Councillor John Pickering has stepped down as chairman of Rowlands Castle Parish Council

‘Don’t leave it too long to trim your hedges’

  • Leader steps down as councillors agree he did not act unlawfully
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A TRUCE has been reached at a parish council which has been dogged by an internal row.

Rowlands Castle Parish Council has released a public statement and confirmed that Councillor John Pickering has now stepped down from being chairman of the authority.

It follows a heated public meeting in January in which councillors unanimously took a vote of no confidence in Mr Pickering.

But Mr Pickering vowed to continue his chairmanship as he had no legal obligation to resign.

Part of the allegation by councillors was that Mr Pickering ‘unlawfully’ delegated authority to himself by sending a letter to Councillor Sean Woodward, who led transport at Hampshire County Council at the time, regarding his concerns about building 700 homes on farmland east of Horndean.

An investigation by East Hampshire District Council confirmed he was within his rights to send the letter.

A statement from the parish council, signed by Mr Pickering and fellow councillors, said: ‘As current and recent members of Rowlands Castle Parish Council, we pay tribute to current chairman Councillor John Pickering for his successful leadership of the council since his election in 2011.

‘We accept that Councillor Pickering did not act unlawfully in sending his letter to County Councillor Woodward in November 2015.

‘We apologise if, in this regard, any statement has been made suggesting that he has acted unlawfully in public office.

‘We refer to the ambiguity between the principles stated in the “Good Councillor’s Guide” and Rowlands Castle Parish Council Standing Order 67 which contributed to the contention that Councillor Pickering had acted unlawfully, an ambiguity that has now been rectified.’

The statement added: ‘We accept that Councillor Pickering has acted in good faith throughout his period in office as chairman, including his actions in seeking to respond openly to the allegations made against him.

‘For his part, Councillor Pickering wishes it to be known that he intends to stand down as chairman and parish councillor with effect from 31st March 2016 and that he wishes the council well.’

The statement continued: ‘All parties to this statement are agreed that this unfortunate matter is now closed and that no further comments will be made, nor will any party sue, commence, voluntarily aid in any way, prosecute or cause to be commenced or prosecuted against each other any action, suit or other proceedings arising from or relating to these matters.’

The election of a succeeding chairman takes place in May.

The parish council takes an annual precept of £70,000 from taxpayers and oversees planning issues and open spaces.