Investigation continues after 'significant concerns' over Northumberland's Dissington Garden Village planning application

Artist’s impression of now-dropped Dissington Garden Village plans.Artist’s impression of now-dropped Dissington Garden Village plans.
Artist’s impression of now-dropped Dissington Garden Village plans.
A professional body is continuing its investigation into a former senior planning officer at Northumberland County Council following a delay.

This report said that there is ‘now significant evidence that appears to suggest that attempts were made to subvert’ the council’s planning function in relation to the Dissington Garden Village (DGV) scheme.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The proposals for up to 2,000 new homes and other facilities near Ponteland, by Newcastle-based developer Lugano, sparked a High Court claim against the council in 2018 that was later dropped.

The application, which had a minded to approve resolution before it had to be reassessed, has since been withdrawn, while Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd has gone into administration.

Some concerns were passed onto Northumbria Police, but the force has said that ‘having considered this information, we could not find anything which would warrant a criminal investigation’.

The January meeting of the audit committee heard that information had been passed onto the relevant professional body in relation to the conduct of the former senior planning officer highlighted in the report.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokeswoman for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) confirmed at the time that it had received a complaint from the council about one of its members and was investigating.

This week, the spokeswoman said: “The RTPI’s complaints team can confirm that after a delay, the investigation has now recommenced, but it will be several months before a decision is reached.”

Administration process continues

The administration process for Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd remains ongoing, with the administrators extending it until April 2021 with the consent of creditors earlier this year.

The company has two secured creditors – Dissington Lending Company Ltd, which was owed £29.5million at the time of administration that continues to accrue interest, and Matterhorn Capital Dissington Loan Ltd, which was owed £12million.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Newfind Investments Ltd were recorded in company records as a debtor to the sum of £3.6million.

The latest administrator’s progress report, filed with Companies House in May 2020, explains that investigations continue in relation to this Newfind debt, but this company was incorporated in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and is now dissolved.

‘Due to its jurisdiction and lack of records, it has been difficult to establish whether the joint administrators have a claim against Newfind and whether any recovery would be likely, if pursued,’ the report adds.

The document also explains that the attempts to sell the Dissington Estate are currently on hold, as while the previous effort to sell it for £27.5million did attract a number of offers, these were either from sitting tenants for their specific properties or ‘fell far below the administrators’ guide price’.

As previously reported, a confidential report on the conduct of the directors was submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The only directors listed for the company now were not in post at the time of the planning application or the High Court claim, both being appointed in the second half of 2019.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper.

If you can, please do pick up a copy when you are at the shops. Thank you for your support.