Suspension for planning chief in lobbying row

Cllr Barry Turner insists he was acting in the public interest
Cllr Barry Turner insists he was acting in the public interest
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A PLANNING chief has been suspended after lobbying other councillors to reject a housing bid by a millionaire businessman.

Councillor Barry Turner was banned for three months by ethics watchdog Standards Commission Scotland (SCS) from taking part in any planning decisions after it emerged he had emailed fellow councillors urging them to refuse an application ahead of a committee meeting.

The councillor’s suspension related to proposals for land next to a partially-built greyhound track in Wallyford where developer Howard Wallace had applied for a change of use to build 94 homes to help finance completion of the stadium.

Mr Wallace began erecting a grandstand in 1998 but plans stalled and the £4 million venture remained unfinished.

He reported Cllr Turner to the SCS, and today said he was “satisfied” with the outcome.

“Given the serious nature of the improper action by Cllr Turner leading up to the planning decision I made a complaint of his breach of the code of conduct to the Standards Commission,” he said.

“So confirmation that Cllr Turner committed breaches of the code is a satisfactory outcome. The three-month suspension is appropriate.”

An SCS ruling on Monday confirmed Cllr Turner had breached three paragraphs of the councillors’ code of conduct relating to improper conduct and raising doubts over impartiality but today he said the decision was a “sad outcome for local democracy”.

In a statement, Cllr Turner argued that no weight had been given to the “special circumstances” surrounding the application and his “duty of care to the people of East Lothian”.

“Too often, elected representatives are accused of acting in self-interest,” it read. “My actions here were totally selfless and based upon a motivation to do the right thing for the people I serve.

“After nearly 50 years of unblemished public service in different guises I am saddened that I have been found at fault simply trying to do my job as a councillor and planning convener.”

Councillor Paul McLennan, leader of East Lothian Council, said: “I think Barry Turner is disappointed with the outcome and I share his disappointment but from it there are lessons to be learned for us all.”

A council spokesman said: “We note the decision of the Standards Commission and await their full written response. Once this is received, the council will consider the matter.”