Ashley Waters continued representing one of England’s poorest wards while renovating 18th century Normandy chateau
When Ashley Waters started posting YouTube videos charting how he was renovating his new family chateau in France he presumably hoped it would gain some traction.
Back home in Middlesbrough, residents began to question why one of their local councillors appeared to be spending most of his time 500 miles away in a castle in a different country.
Waters has now stepped down from the north east town’s council amid growing outrage that he was continuing to represent the North Ormesby ward – one of the most deprived in the country – while effectively mid-relocation to Normandy.
Middlesbrough Council has confirmed his resignation and said a by-election would be held in “due course”.
While local government rules do not impel members to live in their wards, serving while spending significant chunks of time in another country was considered unorthodox by many in the Teesside town.
“The whole situation was ridiculous,” said Councillor Joan McTigue. “This is one of the poorest wards in the country – there are real issues with fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour – and its only councillor was mid-move to France. People couldn’t believe it. It was completely unethical. Other councillors have been receiving calls from people in North Ormesby because they cannot get hold of Ashley.”
Waters – an independent who received an £8,057 allowance for being on the council – remains adamant that he had done nothing wrong despite now standing down.
The 36-year-old said others had exaggerated the amount of time he was in France, although his own YouTube channel, called Escape To The Dream, features weekly videos in which he is seen at the 18th century property.
He also admitted that he had spent lockdown in Normandy; and that he had sold a pet shop business in Middlebrough to focus on the project.
He said: “The plan for me was to continue to live and work in the UK for the next couple of years until my term was up, and then move out to France.”
But, speaking to the BBC, he admitted: “Now that I have resigned, I will be moving there permanently.”
The property dates back to the 18th century and is set in 22 acres of grounds.