Triple fault for local row over tennis netting

The row rumbled over tennis netting.
The row rumbled over tennis netting.
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A THIRD Midlothian councillor has been sanctioned over his involvement in a planning application to put netting up at a tennis club.

SNP councillor Colin Cassidy was hauled before the Standards Commission over allegations he failed to declare a friendship with objectors to the plan.

The case against him followed two fellow members of the local authority’s planning committee being suspended from it for a month after claims of bias.

Complaints were made after Dalkeith Lawn Tennis Club applied for planning permission to put netting up as screening on top of a fence at its courts.

Although the application was approved by the planning committee in April last year, a condition was imposed which forced the club to remove part of the netting – which had been put up ahead of permission being granted – and replace it with a lighter mesh.

It followed debate over the impact of the netting on local resident, Masterchef 1994 winner Gerry Goldwyre, whose garden was overlooked by it.

In May, the Standards Commission ruled that Labour councillors Margot Russell and John Hackett, who took part in the meeting, had breached their code of conduct.

Both councillors attended a hearing in May after they were accused of bias because they had visited Mr Goldwyre, whose garden was affected ahead of the planning committee meeting.

The Standards Commission ruled that, while they had not acted in an unfair manner, they had breached the code by acting in a manner which would have “given an appearance of unfairness and bias towards one of the parties”.

They were suspended from sitting on the planning committee for one month following the hearing.

However, the commission panel added the councillors had not “acted dishonestly or made any attempt to conceal their visit to the objector’s property.”

Mr Cassidy, who also sits on the planning committee, was accused of failing to declare an alleged friendship with Mr Goldwyre, who objected to the planning application ahead of the meeting.

He did not take part in a site visit, but it was claimed his friendship could be considered “sufficiently significant” as to affect his decision-making in the case.

Following a hearing yesterday, the Standards Commission ruled that Mr Cassidy had indeed been in breach of the code of conduct and censured him.

A censure by the Standards Commission is the lower end of the scale of action following a breach and “is a formal recording of the Standards Commission’s severe and public disapproval”.

Following their suspension in May, councillors Russell and Hackett said: “We are pleased to note the Commissioner agreed with our view that there was no question of improper conduct on our part, nor was there any question of being prejudicial or biased.

“Given we have not been suspended immediately and only from one meeting of the planning committee, we believe this is the lowest sanction that could be applied and our track records as councillors and openness and honesty throughout this process was given consideration. We look forward to continuing to represent the interests of local residents in our communities.”