November 23, 2020 5.22 pm This story is over 42 months old

Developer angry with councillor who told residents to spy on him

Deputy leader alluded to illegal activities

A developer has hit out after a West Lindsey Councillor told a parish council and residents to spy on him over his plans for a former blacksmiths forge.

Councillor Paul Howitt-Cowan, who is also the deputy leader of West Lindsey District Council, told the meeting of Hemswell Parish Council he feared feared Alan Morris might illegally demolish the building as part of his plans to build a new one-and-a-half storey home.

The parish council previously said they had “reservations” over the plans, particularly with the replacement building.

They said the replacement would result in a “significant part” of Hemswell history being lost and called for a “sympathetic” reconstruction of the building.

He told the meeting in June that he had spoken to the planning officer and, although she was yet to write the report, “I more or less know what she’s going to say — she’s going to refuse it.”

He added that West Lindsey’s conservation officer believed it could be repaired and restored.

Councillor Paul Howitt-Cowan. | Photo: Gainsborough Conservatives

“The bungalow that’s proposed is preposterous […] and the person who’s putting forward this development does have a history of doing this in other parts of the country,” he said.

“Now, this information I shouldn’t tell you, but we will if there’s an attempt — and this is where local people can help — if this chap starts to demolish the property, or interfere with the property in any way, please let West Lindsey know as soon as possible because there are legal actions that can be taken.

“We can invoke legislation to protect this building at every cost.

“There is a risk, [the conservation officer] thinks that he might try to be naughty, and flout the planning rules.”

Councillor Howitt-Cowan has since become deputy leader of the authority after former leader Giles McNeill stepped aside due to fraud allegations.

The Blacksmiths Forge. | Photo: Alan Morris

Mr Morris said he was “outraged” by the remarks which he said labelled him a “serial criminal”.

He has since complained to both councils, the local Conservative association and MP Edward Leigh.

“The accusations are completely baseless. I have never demolished any building in my life – legally or illegally,” he said.

“I was absolutely livid when I heard what he said, and I have absolutely no idea where this idea of my previous history of illegal demolition has come from.”

The plans for the replacement build.

The property already had planning approval for conversion to a home, however Mr Morris said two structural surveys had concluded that the building was beyond repair resulting in the new application.

When contacted by the Local Democracy Service, Councillor Howitt-Cowan refused to comment further.

A spokesperson for West Lindsey District Council said: “The council is aware of the matter and this is being looked into, therefore we cannot comment further at this stage.”

Gainsborough Conservatives confirmed an investigation was in progress, but that the complaint had only recently come to their attention due to “major organisational changes” within the association.

Hemswell Parish Council has been contacted for comment.