WLDC Deputy leader forced to apologise over planning slur

The deputy leader of West Lindsey District Council who told residents to spy on a house builder because he “might try to be naughty” has been told to apologise and had access to council officers restricted.

Conservative Councillor Paul Howitt-Cowan was investigated by senior officers and an independent person after he told Hemswell Parish Council that he feared Alan Morris might illegally demolish a former blacksmiths forge in the area as part of plans to build a new one-and-a-half storey home.

Mr Morris said he had been labelled a “serial criminal” after Councillor Howitt-Cowan said he had a “history of doing this in other parts of the country”.

He denied demolishing any building and said he was “livid”.

Officers have now confirmed the senior councillor breached the code of conduct and told him to apologise to Mr Morris.

Councillor Howitt-Cowan was also requested to attend meetings of Hemswell Parish and the district council to place on record that “his comments were inaccurate and inappropriate”.

“Given the impact Councillor Howitt-Cowan’s behaviour has had on member officer relations and the questions it has raised around the planning process and professionalism of our officers, I have for the remainder of the civic year restricted his access to [officers], he is no longer permitted to contact such officers directly,” said the report.

Cllr Howitt-Cowan will not be permitted to serve or substitute on the planning committee for the remainder of the civic year. His rights to speak as a ward councillor remain unaffected.

Mr Morris, said the outcome was “pathetic”.

He said: “Howitt-Cowan has received no real punishment for the blatant lies he told about me.”

“Worse still, he has been appointed deputy leader […] which shows the contempt that the management of the council have for me and my family.”

Mr Morris also said immediate action should have been taken by the chief executive but accused him of burying his head in the sand and ‘causing enormous distress’ for his family.

He continued: “Any chance I had of having my planning application considered on its merits were completely destroyed by Howitt-Cowan’s cowardly actions in branding me a criminal within days of my application being submitted.”

However, he said he had received positive support from neighbours.

West Lindsey District Council and Councillor Howitt-Cowan were contacted for comment.