CHESTER Zoo has accused a local councillor of disrupting a national event it was hosting amid claims he also heckled a government minister.

The zoo hosted the Big Nature & Climate Debate on Monday, June 17, with 15 of the country’s other major environmental organisations and national representatives of the main political parties all in attendence.

With more than 150 people also in the audience, the hustings-style event was filmed by Channel 4 and streamed by the Wildlife Trust.

Chaired by journalist and former BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee, England’s largest parties had been asked to set out how they would halt the decline in nature and get the country on track to achieving net zero.

One of those invited to sit in the audience was Cheshire West and Chester councillor Matt Bryan, and some witnesses claim he heckled the Conservative Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Nature Rebecca Pow.

When approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Cllr Bryan claims he stood up and said ‘she’s lying to you’ and then left.

The zoo said it understands he later tried to re-enter the meeting but was refused entry by security staff. A claim he flatly rejects.

Cllr Bryan currently represents Upton as an independent but was previously a part of the Labour group and a member of the council’s ruling cabinet, but he had the Labour whip withdrawn last year.

A Chester Zoo spokesperson said: “We were proud to host the UK’s national nature and climate election hustings.

“Alongside 15 of the country’s other major environmental organisations, national media, and a packed public audience, we pushed representatives of the major political parties to explain how they’ll tackle the urgent biodiversity and climate crisis.”

They added: “As one of the zoo’s local representatives, Cllr Bryan was invited to attend.

“Unfortunately, he began disrupting the event and left before its conclusion. Our understanding is that Cllr Bryan did attempt to return but, in order to ensure the debate could continue in a robust and proper manner, this was not permitted.”

Cllr Bryan said: “I attended the fantastic event organised by Chester Zoo, which frankly wasn’t a debate.

“We’ve had 14 years of Tory lies and I got a bit frustrated and left peacefully of my own volition and said ‘she’s lying to you’.

“I then went and sat with the new snow leopard and waited for my friends to finish and we got a cab. At no point did I try to get back in.”