Police rule out criminal investigation over Dissington Garden Village planning application

Northumberland County Council’s concerns about a high-profile planning application ‘did not warrant a criminal investigation’, police have said.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 2:34 pm
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 7:07 pm
An artist’s impression of the proposed Dissington Garden Village.

As revealed last week, a report to a meeting of the authority’s audit committee on Wednesday January 22 sets out that there is ‘now significant evidence that appears to suggest that attempts were made to subvert’ the authority’s planning function in relation to the Dissington Garden Village (DGV) scheme.

The proposals for up to 2,000 new homes and other facilities near Ponteland, by Newcastle-based developer Lugano, sparked a £10million 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The application, which had a minded to approve resolution before it had to be reassessed, has since been withdrawn, while Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd has gone into administration.

Among other issues, the report states that ‘significant concerns’ have been raised with Northumbria Police.

However, a spokeswoman for Northumbria Police told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Northumberland County Council wrote to us in March last year raising a number of concerns.

“In June, we confirmed in writing that having considered this information, we could not find anything which would warrant a criminal investigation.”

Last week, a Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We have a statutory obligation to uphold the duties required as a planning authority.

“It is only right and proper that when significant matters of concern are brought to our attention, that we investigate these fully, and report and act on the findings.

“These related specifically to the professional conduct and inappropriate behaviour surrounding a significant planning application, which was subsequently withdrawn.

“To confirm, the employees referred to in this report are no longer employed by the council. The report will be fully considered by audit committee at its next meeting.”

Lugano was previously approached for comment.