Exclusive: Planner quits after probe into undeclared links to developer

A SENIOR planning officer at a Yorkshire council has resigned over links with a national property development company which were first revealed by the Yorkshire Post earlier this year.

Hamish Gledhill has left Kirklees Council following an investigation into his connections with Princegate Estates and the authority also last night announced an independent review of Mr Gledhill’s role in an important planning blueprint for the area which identifies land for future development.

A spokesman said the council wanted to ensure the integrity of the Local Development Framework (LDF) “has not been compromised.”

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The planner has resigned before the council decided what further action to take after an internal investigation concluded he had breached the terms of his contract by not declaring a contractual relationship with Princegate Estates.

In a statement, the council said it had not found evidence Mr Gledhill had used his position inappropriately for financial gain but that the link with Princegate “had exposed the council to adverse perceptions, particularly with regard to the Local Development Framework.”

The authority said it had also found no evidence of corruption or that Mr Gledhill had exerted inappropriate influence over the LDF but an independent review was necessary, with the findings to be made public.

Mr Gledhill was withdrawn from working on the LDF after his involvement with Princegate emerged earlier this year but was not suspended.

Council chief executive Adrian Lythgo said: “The most important thing to me is that the public can have absolute confidence in the transparency and probity in all our dealings, and that all involved in the council act with care and integrity.

He added: “The report makes reference to the high quality of Hamish’s work, and I am happy to recognise that.”

It has previously been revealed that Mr Gledhill began his involvement with Princegate in 2006, a year after he joined Kirklees as a senior planning officer.

He was the West Yorkshire contact for Princegate, whose business includes securing housing developments across the country, and his picture and contact details were on the company’s website until earlier this year.

The website referred to Princegate’s “first class team of locally-based partners who understand the local market, and together with our architects, planners and surveyors have the skill and tenacity to ensure our schemes come to fruition.”

Council officers are required to abide by a code of conduct which includes obtaining prior consent for outside work but Mr Gledhill only registered his Princegate interest in January.

Kirklees did not approve his outside role. The authority said: “Mr Gledhill’s relationship with Princegate was developed in 2006 when he was considering leaving the council, and any activity had ceased by early 2008.”

Mr Gledhill declined to clarify the details of his Princegate role when previously approached, but the council has confirmed that he set up a separate company, called Velsheda, to be used as a “tax efficient” vehicle for any work with Princegate.

A spokesman said the company had not generated any income.

Mr Gledhill said in the statement: “I am very sad to be leaving Kirklees, having enjoyed the last three years, but I realise that my continued association with the LDF will allow some members of the community to attempt to undermine its progress.”