THE former leader of New Forest District Council has been suspended from the ruling Tory group pending the conclusion of a court case.

Cllr Barry Rickman, who resigned as leader in March after being prosecuted by the Environment Agency, is currently sitting as an Independent.

His suspension has been confirmed by the new leader of the council, Cllr Edward Heron.

He told the Daily Echo: "Under the rules for Conservative Groups, set nationally by the Conservative Party, Barry’s membership of the Group was mandatorily suspended.

"This was notified to the council’s chief executive and the council’s website updated.

"Upon the conclusion of the court case Barry may, if he wishes, apply to the Conservative Group for his suspension to be lifted."

Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, added: "Barry has been a hugely dedicated councillor for very many years and we must all await the outcome of the legal process."

Cllr Rickman, who is still a member of the Conservative Party, is continuing to represent Boldre and Sway.

As reported in the Daily Echo, he appeared at Southampton Magistrates' Court on March 12.

He pleaded guilty to knowingly causing/permitting a person to operate a regulated waste operation facility that dealt with the deposit, treatment and or storage of waste, without an environmental permit.

His brother Robert, 67, who gave his address at Rickman's Scrapyard, appeared in court alongside him.

He admitted conducting/causing or knowingly permitting activity in contravention of an environmental permit in relation to the waste operation.

The offences were committed at Lower Mead End Road, Sway, between November 17 2017 and October 9 2020, the court heard.

District Judge Richard Blake adjourned the case to July 28, when the two men will be sentenced.

He said: "Quite clearly the land needs to be made good. This is in a rural area and is clearly a curse on the community in the position it is."

Cllr Rickman later resigned as leader of the council amid rumours of Tory infighting.

He was first elected to the authority in 1983 and served for five years. He returned to the council in 1995 and has been a member ever since.

He is also a member of the New Forest National Park Authority.