Herts county council candidate set to take legal action over election leaflet

St Albans district councillors Beric Read and Bert Pawle at the recent Luton Airport exhibition in S

St Albans district councillors Beric Read and Bert Pawle at the recent Luton Airport exhibition in St Albans - Credit: Archant

LEGAL action is being pursued by a Tory councillor who has accused an opponent of printing a “complete lie” about him in an election leaflet.

Beric Read, who stood to represent Sandridge ward in last week’s Herts County Council elections, claims literature distributed by the Liberal Democrats wrongly claimed he had voted to build 350 houses on Green Belt land in Sandpit Lane.

And after losing by just 104 votes he believes this “false” information could have cost him a seat on the county council and is seeking legal advice over whether the election could be deemed null and void.

Cllr Read, who represents Sandridge on St Albans district council, said: “I am used to parties manipulating the facts but this crosses the line. It is a fabrication and it is a complete lie. There has never been a vote to council.

“I think it could have confused quite a lot of people and put them off voting. It certainly damages people’s view of politics as a whole.”

He went on: “Even if I had won the election they should be apologising.”

The leaflet was circulated to residents by Liberal Democrat candidate Geoff Churchard, who subsequently won the seat, days before the electorate went to the polls last Thursday.

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It also said the Conservatives tried to “blackmail” local residents by claiming if the 350 houses in Sandpit Lane were not agreed to hundreds more could be built following an appeal, which St Albans district council (SADC) would not be able to defend.

Cllr Churchard told the Herts Advertiser the allegation against him was a case of “semantics” and said he was referring to Cllr Read voting in favour of the Strategic Local Plan – the documents behind which included the houses on Sandpit Lane – at a full SADC meeting in November.

He said: “It is just semantics whether they voted for the [Strategic Local] Plan or voted to release green belt for 350 houses. I don’t think for people in Marshalswick there is much difference.

“They are just playing with words, they are trying to make a bigger issue out of something with semantics.”

He added: “They are just pretty peeved they lost the election.”