POLICE have confirmed they are looking into an allegation against the leader of Malvern Hills District Council.
It is the latest twist in the ongoing saga surrounding the controversial proposal for 21 homes at Clay Green Farm in Alfrick owned by Coun David Hughes.
Residents have lodged a formal complaint to police, backed by a barrister’s opinion, about claims the council leader has voted in favour of other housing bids fronted by Greenlight Developments – the same firm which has an option to purchase his land if planning permission is given.
Villagers have claimed Coun Hughes has a vested interest in the success of the firm and should have declared his association and removed himself from council debates where housing applications submitted by Greenlight were decided.
In one case in particular they argue the Tory chief made a ‘decisive’ intervention when a controversial Greenlight application for 48 houses in Clifton-upon-Teme was tabled in October.
The development, on land owned by the partner of Conservative councillor Barbara Williams, was passed after a move to throw it out failed by four votes to three. Coun Hughes voted against refusal according to residents.
Residents in Alfrick and Clifton-upon-Teme have collectively stumped up £1,200 to pay for a barrister to look into the issue.
Planning lawyer Scott Stemp said he had not seen the full details of the option Greenlight have to purchase Clay Green Farm.
But Mr Stemp said if the agreement meant Coun Hughes did have a ‘Disclosable Pecuniary Interest’ – DPI – in the firm, then a failure to declare that could be a breach of the Localism Act.
He also said it could be an offence under the Fraud Act.
Mr Stemp said he believed Coun Hughes’ association with Greenlight at least qualified as an Other Disclosable Interest – ODI – and said any failure to declare that might also be an act of fraud, but not a breach of Localism laws.
Police confirmed they had received the complaint and were still reviewing the details. But a spokeswoman said they had not decided whether or not to launch an investigation into the matter at this stage.
The Observer contacted Malvern Hills District Council and Coun Hughes to respond to the allegations but a council spokeswoman said it was inappropriate for the authority or the council leader to comment on a police issue.