ANDOVER Town Council’s planning committee chairman last week survived a motion of no confidence in his leadership — a move engineered by members of his own party.

At a meeting on Monday, June 17, a motion, put forward by Councillor Christopher Ecclestone and seconded by Cllr David Coole, proposed the committee held no confidence in the leadership of its chairman, Cllr Richard Rowles.

Cllr Rowles is also the leader of the Andover Alliance party, of which Cllrs Ecclestone and Coole are members.

The motion was lodged after just one planning meeting, with that event cited as the basis for the move.

But after much discussion during Monday's meeting, which grew heated at times, the proposal was defeated by three votes to two, with one abstention.

During the debate Cllr Ecclestone, when quizzed by Cllr Lauren Banville, stressed he did not wish to stand for chairman, saying: “I have not put myself forward and if someone else wishes to do so they may do.”

Cllr Kevin Farrer pitched in, addressing the conduct of the two councillors rather than the motion itself.

He said: “I think at the end of the day it’s been through and through two people and it’s been poppycock — and this is poppycock from day one — from two people and two people alone. And that’s all I’ve got to say on that.”

Tempers again were in danger of becoming frayed as Cllr Rowles asked Cllr Ecclestone if he had lodged a similar motion of no confidence against the committee’s previous leader.

It has since been confirmed that no such motion ever occurred, but the remark triggered an exchange between Cllrs Rowles and Ecclestone over whether the comment was a question or assertion.

Cllr Banville then interjected, saying “you are accountable to the public,” to which Cllr Ecclestone quipped, “well if you can’t speak civilly,” before appealing to the chairman for his input.

The chairman again had to interject, shouting “stop!” as councillors discussed whose input would be final word on the matter.

Cllr Coole then had his say, urging councillors to separate “the boundaries of friendships, party and council roles and responsibilities” while also referencing the “heavy burdens” of the chairman’s roles outside the committee.

He said: “Even God had to rest on the seventh day. So it is my considered view that we as councillors have a duty of care to ensure Cllr Rowles gets some opportunity to rest and that he should delegate more responsibilities to others.”

Cllr Ecclestone had earlier said the situation with the current planning committee was “markedly worse than previously” and labelled last month’s meeting “a truly shambolic” session.

He added: “This motion gives the opportunity to push the reset button and for Andover Town Council to lift its game, at least in planning matters.”

But the committee opted against ‘resetting’ by three votes to two. Cllrs Rowles, Farrer and Banville voting against the motion, with Cllrs Ecclestone and Coole in favour and Cllr Rebecca Meyer abstaining.