Councillor calls for Hertsmere chief executive's resignation over nature reserve row (From Watford Observer)
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Councillor Steve O'Brien calls for resignation of Hertsmere Borough Council chief executive, Donald Graham, over Fisher's Field nature reserve row
A ruling Hertsmere politician has called for the resignation of the borough council’s top officer in an ongoing dispute over a Bushey nature reserve.
Steve O’Brien, a Conservative councillor Bushey North, said Hertsmere chief executive Donald Graham should “look for another job” due to the council’s resistance to consider converting Fisher’s Field into allotments.
His comments come after councillors on the Environment Scrutiny Committee voted to overturn a decision to discuss the matter last night.
Fisher’s Field, in Fisher’s Close, has been used as an area of wildlife conservation since it was given nature reserve status in 1998.
Councillor O’Brien, who is part of the ruling Conservative group, has argued for some time that the land should be used for allotments.
Councillor O’Brien, who was absent from last night’s meeting, said he believes the matter should be allowed to be discussed in a scrutiny committee.
He said: “I have had it confirmed by the secretary of state that the site at Fishers Field is statutorily meant for allotments.
“I have been told if I ask any more questions about the site it will be considered vexatious.
“As an elected member I should have the right to ask questions but this has fallen on deaf ears.
“What is the point of a scrutiny committee if we cannot debate these issues.
“The chief executive should look for another job. I will be starting a petition calling for his resignation.”
During the meeting Chairman of the Environment Scrutiny Committee, Peter Wayne, said he did not want anymore time devoted to the Fisher’s Field issue.
He said: “At the last meeting we agreed we would look at Fisher’s Field. Since then I have remembered the topic has been subject to attention recently not least in the conservative group and that the council has a clear wish to see Fishers Field continue as nature reserve.
“In view of this it is my suggestion that we do not devote any more time to this issue and that we overturn the decision made at our last meeting.
“I know this matter is close to the heart of some colleagues and my suggestion today is that any discussion on the future of Fishers Field begins with a chat with the relevant portfolio holder. I do not see it to be the role of the scrutiny committee to intervene when the policy of the council has been so recently reaffirmed”
Three councillors at the meeting voted to overturn the decision, and one Councillor Jane West, voted against.
Following the meeting another Conservative councillor for Bushey North, Leslie Winters said: “Local residents will be delighted to know that award winning Fishers Field will no longer have a question mark hanging over its survival.
“I’m pleased with the outcome of the debate which resulted in the matter being barred from further discussion.
“This will save the council costs and officers’ time being waste.
“I thank the officers of Fishers Field for all their hard work over the last few years and for giving the residents so much pleasure.”
Friends of Fishers Field secretary, Betty McBean, said the group were pleased to hear the decision.
She said: The Friends of Fishers Field are very relieved to hear the decision of the Scrutiny Committee that the threat to change the Nature Reserve to allotments is now over.
"This has been a worrying and time consuming issue for a long time. We have worked hard to maintain and develop such a worthwhile project as the Nature Reserve, receiving interest and support from the local community across the years.
"It has been difficult to understand the reason for this entirely unnecessary pressure when we have the encouragement of local people and officials. We are appreciative and grateful to Councillor Leslie Winters for his unfailing belief in Fishers Field, and the generous use of his time."
A council spokesperson said: “We have met with Councillor O'Brien on several occasions and comprehensively examined this issue.
"Planning permission was granted to make Fishers Field a nature reserve in 1995 and it has been designated a Local Nature Reserve since 1998.
"Under current council policy, there are no plans for a change in use at Fishers Field into allotments and we already cater extensively for allotment holders in Bushey.”
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