Thaxted councillors investigated over conduct
AN investigation into an alleged breach of Thaxted Parish Council s code of conduct by two of its members will be presented to Uttlesford s standards committee on Thursday (November 26). Chairman John Freeman and Cllr Richard Hingston are both accused of
AN investigation into an alleged breach of Thaxted Parish Council's code of conduct by two of its members will be presented to Uttlesford's standards committee on Thursday (November 26).
Chairman John Freeman and Cllr Richard Hingston are both accused of failing to declare an interest when the council discussed a charity's plans to develop land in Thaxted.
In his investigation, monitoring officer at Uttlesford District Council, Michael Perry, found that Cllr Freeman had not declared a personal interest, despite being a friend of the charity's trustee Christopher Askew.
ResCU revealed their intention to build a respite centre on the land in 2007 and the matter was discussed at a number of parish council meetings that year, in 2008 and 2009.
Mr Perry's report states that Cllr Freeman was present at seven meetings when the issue was being discussed and had "failed to declare the nature and existence of his personal interest arising from his friendship with Mr Askew".
However, because Cllr Freeman's friend did not stand to make any personal gain from the charity's planning application, the report concluded that the interest was personal and not prejudicial.
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Commenting on the report, Cllr Freeman said that it was "fair" and had "exposed the need for councillors to undergo more training".
The second councillor accused of failing to declare an interest at meetings, Cllr Hingston, owns one third of the land that ResCU wants to develop. The other two thirds are owned by his brother and sister.
Mr Perry's report found that on five occasions between 2007 and 2009, Cllr Hingston was present at a meeting when the issue was being discussed and failed to declare his personal interest.
In addition, the report found that because Cllr Hingston and his family were likely to benefit financially from the granting of the planning permission, the interest was both personal and prejudicial.
Cllr Hingston said that on most occasions he had declared his interest to the council and retired from the discussions, but added: "It is possible that the matter may have been mentioned in passing before I had a chance to react.
"All members of the parish council were well aware that I am a joint owner of the land in question, having already sold an area to Hastoe [Housing Association] for affordable housing.