A Chorley Council stalwart has stepped down from a planning committee amid controversy over payments made to a parish council by a developer.
Former mayor and ex-deputy leader councillor Ken Ball, who represents the Coppull ward, has denied any wrong-doing over the allegations that surfaced last week.
The politician, who also serves as a Coppull parish councillor, came under fire after it emerged that Seddon, a company which made a donation to the parish council’s North West In Bloom fund, is set to put in a planning application for a housing development on the former Discover Leisure site in Coppull.
It has led some opponents to claim that Coun Ball has put himself in a position where he could be seen to being influenced by the developers.
However, Coun Ball said: “I have been on the planning side for 18 years and in that time all of my decisions are what I have thought was right for the residents – whether in support of the council officers’ recommendations or not.
“Over the past five years we have approached firms that have been based in the village and asked if they wanted to tidy it up and improve the area – some of whom have submitted planning applications, but I have still voiced my opinions against the schemes.
“I have not done anything wrong and I would not make any decision that would affect my integrity as a councillor or influence it.
“In this case, it is just political nit-picking as the money given by Seddon was going towards the North West in Bloom fund.
“I have spoken to the chief executive of Chorley Council, Gary Hall, and he is aware of the situation.
“I have stood down from the committee because I did not want anybody thinking that the money for the campaign influenced my decision-making.”
Among the firms who have given funding to the North West In Bloom in the past are Stewarts Haulage, Coppull Motors, Harrisons Packaging, Spar, Coppull health centre, DP Coldplaners, Dave Barron Caravans and RBS.
At the time of going to press, council chiefs had not received a formal complaint about Coun Ball’s conduct.
But Coun Matthew Crow, who also serves Coppull area, said: “I have been contacted by a number of residents in Coppull over the past week who are very angry about the actions of Coun Ball and Coppull Parish Council in this matter.
“I echo their assertions that it is not acceptable for a member of the development control committee to solicit or receive money from an applicant developer for any organisation of which they are a member, especially when that developer is applying to build in their ward.
“While I have every faith that in this matter Coun Ball and Coppull Parish Council were trying to act with the best of intentions, by soliciting and agreeing to receive financial sums from an applicant they have served only to expose a staggering degree of naivety which unfortunately marks just one of a series of misjudgements made by both in recent months.”
“Coun Ball’s resignation from the development control committee, while rightfully meaning he is barred from voting on the application at the former Discover Caravans site, will also mean he no longer attends any committees of the council which subsequently raises a very serious concern about value for money for residents in Coppull.
“He has also thrown away any right to vote on serious development issues affecting the village and the wider borough.
“The actions of Coun Ball and the parish council may have been conducted in haste but the consequences for our village will be very long lasting indeed.”