A PARISH council chairman has been censured by his colleagues over a leaflet he circulated highlighting a planning application for a major housing scheme.

Peter Ray, chairman of Etherley Parish Council, produced the circular after plans for 21 houses at Low Etherley, near Bishop Auckland, were submitted to Durham County Council.

Due to the size of the proposed development, the parish council called a special meeting to discuss the plan, which includes 12 four-bed houses, six three-bed properties and another three-bed homes for social housing.

Loading article content

While properties neighbouring the development site were notified of the proposals as part of the planning process, Coun Ray said he had wished to spread the word further afield.

“I thought it was worthwhile telling people about the plan,” he said.

“I put an A5 notice round outlining the plan and telling people about the meeting being held.”

He concedes he made a mistake signing it off “Councillor P Ray, Etherley Parish Council” and colleagues voiced concerns this made the leaflet look like an official parish council document.

Coun Paul Ryman said it could have resulted in the council's integrity over the planning application being called into question.

“I was told I should not have done it,” said Coun Ray.

“I did not apologise for doing it – it was simply telling people there was a meeting - but I have apologised for causing the parish council any embarrassment.”

The special meeting went ahead on February 20 and attracted almost 30 people.

After which the parish council wrote to Durham County Council highlighting road safety and access concerns plus drainage and flooding issues.

At the parish council's March meeting, Coun Ray agreed to circulate a note of clarification to all 100 homes which received his earlier leaflet, stating he and not the parish council had been responsible for publishing it.

Couns Ryman and Anthea Tallentire said they had both been contacted by the applicant, Hazel Kellett, who had expressed concerns about the way the application had been discussed in the village.

Coun Ryman said he had told Mrs Kellett she was welcome to come and address parish councillors.

Contacted after the meeting, Mrs Kellett said: “I am aware of the reaction to the application. I am confident it is a good one and socially responsible.”