THE LEADER of a Hampshire council has stepped down with immediate effect.

Councillor Barry Rickman has resigned as leader of New Forest District Council.

The 63-year-old Tory politician had appeared before Southampton Magistrates' Court earlier this month charged with flouting environmental regulations and where he stood in the dock alongside his brother, Robert, 67.

The hearing concerned issues at Rickman’s Scrapyard which they jointly own in Lower Mead End, Sway.

District Judge Richard Blake mentioned end of life vehicle disposal and asbestos when addressing the court.

Cllr Rickman, of Heron Close, Sway, pleaded guilty to knowingly caused/permitted a person to operate a regulated waste operation facility that dealt with the deposit, treatment and or storage of waste, without authorisation of an environmental permit.

Meanwhile, his brother, of Rickman’s Scrapyard, Mead End Road, admitted a single matter of conducting/causing or knowingly permitting activity in contravention of an environmental permit in relation to the waste operation.

District Judge Richard Blake deferred sentencing for both men until July 28. He gave the two an opportunity saying: "Quite clearly the land needs to be made good”.

Following Cllr Rickman's conviction for charges between November 17, 2017 and October 9 last year, the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on New Forest District Council demanded for him to stand down.

The Lib Dems threatened a Motion of No Confidence at the next Full Council meeting in April.

A statement from the party said: "The Liberal Democrat opposition group are absolutely clear that Councillor Barry Rickman can no longer continue in his role as Council Leader now that he has been found guilty of an Environmental crime in the New Forest.

It clearly is not a purely private matter. You cannot have an Authority that is responsible for proper licensing that is led by a Member who didn't himself comply with the law".

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Edward Heron, will become the Acting Leader of the Council until the Council appoints a new leader at its meeting on April 12.

Cllr Rickman represents the Boldre and Sway ward and was first elected in 1983.

As previously reported a spokesperson for New Forest District Council said: “This is a personal and private matter relating to Barry Rickman.

“It is not a council matterM and the council does not intend to comment further.”