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Kirklees councillors accused of breaching planning protocols by meeting Thandi brothers to discuss plan for new Castle Hill pub

TOP councillors have been accused of breaking planning rules after meeting the Thandi brothers.

TOP councillors have been accused of breaking planning rules after meeting the Thandi brothers.

Senior Labour and Conservative politicians met the businessmen to talk about their controversial proposal to rebuild the pub at Castle Hill.

But a leading Tory said one of her party colleagues had been disciplined for attending the get-together at the Sikh Leisure Centre.

Clr Christine Smith went on to accuse the councillors at the meeting of breaching Kirklees Council rules.

The Kirkburton Conservative said: “I was astounded to learn about this meeting which took place in violation of planning protocols.

“A request from an applicant for a meeting should have been referred to the planning case officer who would then consult the chair of the relevant committee about whether discussions are considered appropriate.

“If meetings are arranged between prospective applicants and councillors then they should be conducted in council offices or some other suitable venue – certainly not 9pm on a dark night in the Sikh Leisure Centre.

“The chief executive was not informed of this meeting which is a blatant disregard of the planning protocols.”

Mick and Barry Thandi bought the Castle Hill Hotel in 1998. It was demolished seven years later following complaints that the businessmen had torn down more of the 200-year-old building than planners had allowed.

Armitage Bridge architect, Mark Lee, told the Examiner in December that the Thandis were ready to submit a planning application to build a new pub exactly the same size as the original.

The brothers met the group of councillors at the Sikh Leisure Centre on February 13 to discuss their proposal.

Among the delegation was Kirklees leader Clr Mehboob Khan, regeneration chief Clr Peter McBride and their Labour colleagues Clr Mohan Sokhal and Clr Judith Hughes.

Holme Valley South Conservative Clr Ken Sims, who served as head of regeneration from 2006 to 2009, was also at the meeting.

Clr Smith, who is the group business manager for the Kirklees Tories, said her party colleague had been disciplined for attending the event.

“I have informed Clr Sims it was inappropriate for him to attend,” she said.

“He will not be attending any further meetings and neither will he sit on the planning committee which decides this application.”

Clr Sims defended attending the meeting.

“I think it was the right thing to do,” he said.

“If someone wants to invest a few million pounds then I think it’s only right that we spell out the situation to them which is that new building in the green belt is only allowed in very special circumstances.”

Clr Sims added: “Clr Smith can stop me sitting on the planning committee if she wants and I would take that on the chin.

“But there’s no planning application yet so anything to be considered on the day would be new to me.”

Meanwhile, Clr Smith also criticised the Labour members of Huddersfield Planning Sub-committee who attended the meeting with the businessmen.

“Should the Thandis apply for planning on Castle Hill I shall object to both Clr Sokhal and Clr Hughes being anywhere near the planning committee when this takes place,” she said.

Referring to an earlier Examiner article on the meeting, she continued: “Clr Khan noted that it is not unusual for applicants to contact their local councillors.

“Perhaps he could explain why Clr Sokhal and Clr Hughes were at the meeting when neither of them are the relevant local councillors who represent the Thandis.”

Clr McBride told the Examiner there was “nothing untoward” about the meeting.

“This is a political game being played by Clr Smith,” he said.

“There was nothing untoward, there is no planning application submitted and a Conservative councillor also attended.

“If Clr Smith feels the need to make a complaint, she should do it through the proper channels. I am not aware such a complaint has been made.”

 

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