Probe into planner’s business link

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AN investigation has been launched after it emerged a senior planning officer with a Yorkshire council also had an arrangement to work with a national property development company, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Hamish Gledhill, acting principal planning officer at Kirklees Council, has also been the West Yorkshire contact for Princegate Estates PLC, whose business includes securing housing developments across the country.

Mr Gledhill’s connections with a property developer come at a sensitive time for Kirklees which is currently drawing up the long-term planning blueprint for its area, which includes Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley.

Consultation over the local development framework (LDF) has provoked controversy, including concerns surrounding proposals to develop up to 28,000 new homes over the next two decades.

Part of Mr Gledhill’s job at Kirklees involved working on the LDF but the council confirmed he has been withdrawn from that role. He has not been suspended.

A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the connection between our employee and this company. The matter is now being investigated according to human resources guidance, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage. However, Princegate Estates have stated they have made no effort to work in Kirklees and have made no land acquisitions in the district.”

Mr Gledhill joined the council as a senior planning officer in June 2005 and began his involvement with Princegate a year later. His picture and contact details were on Princegate’s website until earlier this year when they were removed.

Council officers are required to abide by a code of conduct which includes obtaining prior consent for outside work. According to a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Mr Gledhill registered his Princegate interest on January 20, this year. However, Kirklees has not approved his outside role and after learning of his connection with Princegate launched an inquiry which could lead to disciplinary action.

Mr Gledhill has declined to clarify the details of his role with Princegate, saying he was limited in what he could say while the investigation continued.

But he did respond to some of the questions put to him and said: “My involvement with Princegate Estates commenced in July 2006.

“I have never acted on behalf of Princegate Estates within the Kirklees area. Furthermore, Princegate Estates have confirmed to me that they have not taken any interests in any land within Kirklees. I have never been employed by Princegate Estates and I have never received any payment of any kind from them.

“My activities in connection with Princegate Estates had ceased by March 2008, three years ago.”

The council’s response to the FOI request indicated Mr Gledhill retained a connection. It said: “The council’s response is that on the 20th of January 2011 Hamish Gledhill registered an interest, in that he holds a licence to operate with a property developer Princegate Estates. The implications of this declaration of interest are being considered.”

Mr Gledhill declined to make any further clarification. The Yorkshire Post has established Mr Gledhill’s contact details at Princegate were on the website from at least 2007.

Princegate did not have anyone available to comment. Its website promotes a series of regional offices which up until earlier this year included one for West Yorkshire, with Mr Gledhill as the contact.

The website refers to “a 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.”