Leading Stockton councillor to be investigated for alleged breach of code of conduct

Darlington and Stockton Times: Coun Mark Chatburn Coun Mark Chatburn

A WELL-KNOWN councillor is to be investigated for allegedly breaching the councillors’ code of conduct.

Councillor Mark Chatburn, the only UKIP councillor on Teesside, is being investigated by Stockton Borough Council for publishing confidential legal advice circulated to councillors on the planning committee.

Coun Chatburn published the legal paper on his blog arguing council officials were trying to influence the committee to approve a planning application at Urlay Nook, near Eaglescliffe.

The legal document said the council would be unlikely to win an appeal against developers Taylor Wimpey if they rejected a plan to build 145 homes.

Coun Chatburn, who represents Yarm, said the advice meant planning officers “were trying to influence members in secret” and the move was “a sad indictment of Stockton Council’s attitude towards openness.”

The council said that in fact it would be “negligent” not to share legal opinion with councillors.

Now Coun Chatburn, who lost his own place on the planning committee when he defected to UKIP from the Conservatives, is to be investigated by the authority.

A Stockton Council spokesperson said: "An alleged breach of the council’s code of conduct for local authority members is being investigated and will ultimately be reported to a Member Panel. Currently no specific timescales have been agreed for this process.”

Coun Chatburn said he was angry to be contacted on Christmas Eve and would defend the charge.

He said: “To sit on the issue for nearly seven weeks after I published the information before e-mailing me on Christmas Eve demonstrates how utterly childish some officers at Stockton Council are.

"It is no surprise at all they would be angry that their underhand attempts to secure the outcome they wanted at the planning committee were exposed, but in dealing with this matter as they have proves them to be no better than a playground bully."

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