COLCHESTER’S Green Party has been thrown into turmoil after its leader defected and a familiar face returned.

Green boss Steph Nissen sensationally quit on Wednesday evening and joined the Labour group on Colchester Council.

Mark Goacher, who stepped aside from the Greens in October, announced he would be returning to the local party on the same day.

Richard Kirkby-Taylor, who was elected as a Green in May, said there had been a “fundamental breakdown” between the trio, who all represent Castle ward.

Gazette: Defection - Steph Nissen has defected to Colchester's Labour groupDefection - Steph Nissen has defected to Colchester's Labour group

Ms Nissen’s decision means both Colchester’s Labour group and Liberal Democrats are tied with 15 seats on the council, trailing the Conservatives by four.

The councillor told the Gazette there had been “concerns and disagreement about acceptable conduct” with the Greens.

She said: “This isn’t what politics is about, we are here to serve our residents.

“It would have been very easy for me to have gone AWOL but I’ve not done that, this is very much a principled decision.”

When Mr Goacher was asked if his return was linked to Ms Nissen’s departure, he said: “I think people will work out there is [a link].”

Gazette: Return - Mark Goacher has returned to the local GreensReturn - Mark Goacher has returned to the local Greens

He added: “I was keen to return earlier but one person objected to that.

“Now that person has moved on, and I obviously wish her well, I’m very pleased we can get back to working together as a group.”

Mr Goacher, a lecturer at Colchester Sixth Form College, said Mr Kirkby-Taylor is “someone who has been doing a lot of really good stuff”.

He abstained from commenting on any issues shared between himself and his two Castle ward councillors.

Gazette: Elected - Richard Kirkby-Taylor was elected in MayElected - Richard Kirkby-Taylor was elected in May

Mr Kirkby-Taylor said he is hoping to work “a lot more closely” with his colleague now, in order to prevent any “miscommunication”.

He said: “There was a fundamental breakdown between all three of us.

“There were miscommunications and misunderstandings and we’re going to be working hard to make sure that never happens again.

“We will make sure nobody feels left our or sidelined in any way, shape or form.”

On Ms Nissen’s departure, he added: “It’s very sudden.”