HEREFORDSHIRE Council chairman Sebastian Bowen says he abstained in the Hereford bypass debate because chairmen should remain above party politics.

Councillors voted to cancel the proposed bypass west of the city at an extraordinary full council meeting on February 2.

A total of 27 voted to stop the progress of the southern link road and western bypass schemes while 19 voted against and six abstained.

However, councillors did not call for a recorded vote and there was no way of knowing how each elected member voted on the issue.

The Hereford Times asked all 52 who took part in the debate how they cast their vote.

One of those who abstained was councillor Bowen.

“The rationale for voting as chairman of the council I’m meant to remain above politics,” he said.

“I’m not supposed to indulge myself in party politics, in fact, I abstain on quite a lot of things.

“And the bypass issue was one of the things I abstained on.

“I thought this is one of those occasions where I should remain above politics and not be involved one way or the other.


“If the casting vote came, I would use it appropriately.

“As chairman, you are there as an overarching presence to direct and guide the debate.

“You are not allowed to speak in the debate so it’s rather difficult to think you can presume to try and influence it in other ways.

“You try to make sure it’s an effective debate and everyone who needs to speak has a chance to and they are listened to.

“We are getting there now with our Zoom meetings. I try to get as many people in to speak as they can.

“Sometimes it takes a little bit longer but at least nobody can say their words are being stifled.”