The article below first printed in the Sandbach chronicle Thursday the 4th of May
The actions of a former Cranage parish councillor would have been referred to Cheshire East Councils Hearing Sub-Committee had he not resigned, because of the serious nature of the complaints made against him.
That was the conclusion of Bill Norman, the authority’s director of legal services and monitoring officer.
The officer investigated complaints made by a group of residents who alleged John Halstead breached the council’s code of conduct by failing to declare an interest into the Woodside Golf Club planning application.
Peter Wild along with nine other residents, made three complaints against Mr Halstead, to the Cheshire East legal officer.
The group alleged that despite Mr Halstead’s property being adjacent to the golf club and declaring an interest the first time the parish council considered the scheme in 2012, he did not declare an interest on other occasions.
In addition, they claimed after Cheshire east refused the clubs initial planning application in June 2014, Mr Halstead attended the appeal and allegedly confirmed the parish council would take on responsibility of the community facilities that included an outdoor gym and bowling green being offered by the applicant.
In 2015 the planning inspector approved the application to build 27 bedroom hotel together with six garden suites, seven homes and a community leisure facility.
After the appeal ,villagers also alleged that the club transferred part of its land ,immediately adjacent to Mr Halstead’s property to him.
Mr Norman concluded no clear evidence had been found that Mr Halstead had a “disclosable pecuniary interest”
“However, Mr Halstead had not been open about his intentions and should have declared a pecuniary interest when matters pertaining to the golf club were dealt with by the parish council,”stated Mr Norman.
“Having consulted with an independent person, I conclude that he had potentially breached the member’s code of conduct.”
Mr Norman said he was aware Mr Halstead was no longer a parish councillor and was therefore satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to refer the complaint for a full hearing.
“As a result no further action will be taken,”added Mr Norman. “Had he still been a member of the parish council, the matter would have been sent to the council’s sub- committee hearing for determination, given the serious nature of the complaint.”
Mr Halstead told the chronicle that he was happy with the decision, despite the investigation taking two years to conclude. “I have always denied the allegations and have always been confident that the complaints would be dismissed,” he added.
Mr Halstead said he stepped down from his position as a parish councillor after serving 12 years due to other commitments, but would seriously consider standing again in the future.
Mr Wild and the other residents told the chronicle they were “disappointed” with the decision .the group wrote a response letter to Mr Norman outlining its concerns. “We note Mr Halstead potentially beached the code of conduct, this raises doubt on whether he did or didn’t,” wrote Mr Wild. “We submit that this word potentially should be removed given the evidence.”
“we the complainants ,request this matter is put before the Hearing Sub-Committee for determination given the seriousness of the matter.”
A spokesman from Cheshire east said after speaking to its legal team this was not something the council would comment on.