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'You're a disgrace to the village!' Council slammed after passing motion of no confidence in two of its own councillors

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A West Norfolk parish council has been branded “a disgrace” after it passed a motion of no confidence in two of its own members.

The authority in Brancaster acted against Stephen Bocking and Chris Cotton at a meeting last night in response to their alleged involvement in what was described as an “unlawful campout protest.”

But Mr Cotton challenged his colleagues to “prove it”, while Mr Bocking insisted they were standing up for the rights of parishioners.

Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend...Car Park at Brancaster Beach. (50813748)
Land rights Protest Camp at Brancaster Beach Car Park, over the Bank Holiday Weekend...Car Park at Brancaster Beach. (50813748)

And they were backed by speakers during the public session of the meeting at a packed Brancaster Staithe village hall.

One, Peter Bickell, said: “What you have done here tonight is a total disgrace. You are a disgrace to the village.

“Them two people do more work in this village than any of you lot. You do nothing but yap.”

Another said he was “heartbroken” by what he had witnessed.

The move followed a demonstration by members of the Land Is Ours campaign over the August Bank Holiday weekend, in a continuing dispute over common land rights in the village.

The motion, which was

signed by seven councillors

and read out during the meeting, said: “We the undersigned councillors are outraged and saddened at the participation of fellow councillors Stephen Bocking and Chris Cotton in the planning of an unlawful campout protest which took place in Brancaster over the Bank Holiday weekend.

“The police have documentary evidence that they were part of the organising team.

“In our Standing Orders, Councillors commit to protect, enhance and promote the environment of the area of the Parish Council, and to promote the collective interests and well-being of all the residents of the Parish of Brancaster.

“On the advice of NALC we are enacting Standing Order 16a(ix) and we call for a vote of no confidence in both Stephen Bocking and Chris Cotton, and, if it is carried, ask for consideration that their membership on council groups be withdrawn.”

Council chairman Briony Bax said: “It gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to do this.”

But Mr Bocking retorted: “You’re the one that’s doing it. You’re the one that’s started it.”

He also questioned whether councillors who signed the motion were acting out of concern for the village or the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club, which claims it has ownership rights over some of the lands and issued solicitors’ letters to individuals in connection with the protest.

Mr Bocking also asked: “How many of you lot are golf club members?”

Meanwhile, Mr Cotton said police had confirmed neither he nor Mr Bocking had been involved in organising the protest and claimed it was “nothing to do” with the council.

And Celia Borthwick urged Mrs Bax to withdraw the motions, arguing the facts of the issue were not yet clear – a plea which was rejected.

Addressing Mr Bocking and Mr Cotton directly, Mrs Bax said: “This is about your involvement in an illegal protest”, to which Mr Cotton replied: “Prove it.”

The motions do not prevent either Mr Bocking or Mr Cotton from remaining on the council, although they will be removed as council representatives on external bodies, following a subsequent vote.

The council also came under fire from Rod Cook, secretary of the Scolt Head and District Common Rightsholders Association, who claimed it had refused to engage with his organisation.

Earlier, the meeting was told that a “vexatious” Freedom of Information request made by Mr Cook had been rejected by the council. But Mr Cook disputed that description.

The meeting also heard that an objection had been made to the council’s accounts over its receipt of money from the beach car park.

A £10,000 budget has been set aside to pay for legal advice should a formal challenge be made.

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