By Paul Christian, Chief Reporter
Saturday, November 10, 2012
A “POLITICAL sabotage” row has broken out in the aftermath of the controversial Hatfield incinerator approval.
An opposition councillor has threatened legal action against Herts County Council after a link was posted on his personal webpage praising the hated project.
The plant – which prompted thousands of protests – was approved after a tense planning meeting two weeks ago.
Cllr Malcolm Cowan, Lib Dem, has branded it “Conservative propaganda” – but County Hall officials have denied the charge.
The link – which was put on the pages of each councillor on the authority – led to an article quoting cabinet member Cllr Derrick Ashley, branding the 380,000-tonne-a-year plant “an important step”.
Cllr Cowan told the WHT: “Given I have a very clear, long and public record of opposition to this site being used, I could not believe that this appeared on my webpage.”
He added: “If the county council publishes a web page about a county councillor, you expect it to contain factual information about them and what they have done, including how allocated money has been spent.
“What you should not have presented on it is political propaganda for the ruling Tory group.
“What added insult to injury was being told by the council’s press team that it was tough and the link would stay.”
But, Tory borough and county councillor Steven Markiewicz, who described the incinerator as “a dark Satanic mill” at the meeting which approved the plan , was less concerned.
He said: “I see nothing suspicious in the matter and would expect other borough-specific topics to be included from time to time. “
A county council spokeswoman said the link was part of a “standard footer” which appears on every page of Hertfordshire County Council’s website.
She added: “The footer appears in a standalone box to make it clear that it is separate from the material on that page.”
The spokeswoman explained the link’s presence as essential because “the New Barnfield issue is a matter of countywide significance and we felt it was important to publicise the decision made by the Development Control Committee”.
And she said its presence on Cllr Cowan’s page would not lead the public to “automatically think that the footer article was directly associated with that particular member’s page or that that particular member supported the planning application”.