The leader Herefordshire Council has been accused by a fellow councillor of getting elected solely to oppose a controversial bypass around Hereford that would have passed near his home.

At a full meeting of councillors on March 3, the last before May’s local elections, Conservative councillor Paul Rone pointed out that a proposed road crossing of the Wye to the east of Hereford “would affect the villages of Lugwardine, Bartestree, Whitestone, and Mordiford and residents of Hampton Park Road”.

He asked council leader Coun David Hitchiner: “Do you believe, Leader, that an individual living somewhere near this proposed route may stand for election to this council solely to oppose the road and route, and that in his or her first meeting following their election, mutter the words, ‘What button do I have to press to stop this road?’.

“Just as you did, Leader, in the meeting between the Conservative group and the Independent group, three days after the election in May 2019?”

When Coun Hitchiner sought clarification of this, Coun Rone said: “That was the first thing you said to us, the first words I ever heard you speak.

“I and my colleagues were taken aback, because to us it indicated you got elected not to serve the county, but for an individual sole reason to hypothetically stop the proposed road.”

Coun Hitchiner said: “I deny ever saying those words. I would like someone to produce those words please. There is no way I ever said those words, absolutely not.”


Coun Rone and Conservative group leader Coun Jonathan Lester explained afterwards that they both recalled Coun Hitchiner using the phrase during an un-minuted meeting between the two political groups to explore a possible coalition following the 2019 election, which left no single group with a majority in the county.

In the end, the Herefordshire Independents group went on to head a coalition administration with the then It’s Our County and Greens groups, with Coun Hitchiner chosen as leader.

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Herefordshire Independents then split over the bypass issue, with five councillors opposed to its cancellation leaving to form the True Independents group under Coun Bob Matthews.

The coalition formally dropped the western bypass scheme in February 2021.

A meeting organised by South Herefordshire Labour to discuss the bypass issue is being held at Saxty’s cocktail bar and restaurant, Hereford, on the evening of Wednesday March 15.

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