Council leader John Clark forwarded complaint about unauthorised car repair business to the man running it - without telling complainants he OWNED the site

PUBLISHED: 20:27 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 20:27 19 April 2016

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

Fenland District Council John Clark leader admitted sending a complaint about unauthorised use of land to the man running a business from there without telling the complainant he owned the site.

From Fenland Council website the declaration of interests by its leader John ClarkFrom Fenland Council website the declaration of interests by its leader John Clark

Cllr Clark was informed by this newspaper last Thursday of our investigation and on Monday night issued a statement admitting what he had done.

“In my capacity as landlord I have now had a number of helpful and positive conversations with the complainants,” he said.

“I have offered them my unreserved apologies for sharing their complaint with my tenant. I have also confirmed to them that I am the owner of the property.”

Cllr Clark also revealed he had “further considered my position and have reached an agreement with my tenant to terminate his tenancy of my property”.

John ClarkJohn Clark

The admission followed our investigation that Cllr Clark had forwarded the complaint about an unauthorised car repairs business to the trader being complained about – without revealing he owned the site at the centre of the dispute.

“I don’t have an axe to grind against Mr Clark but his behaviour in passing my complaint and contact details to the person I was complaining about is totally unprofessional,” said the man who complained.

Councillor Kit Owen emailed Cllr Clark to say that “it has been brought to my attention you are the landlord of the building in question. Are you involved as a councillor or landlord?

“If the latter, your interest is pecuniary and therefore you should consider your position.”

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.

Cllr Owen says he wants to know “how did this complaint become known to the complainee? Curiouser and curiouser as this is ostensibly a planning issue.

“Is there nothing confidential about complaints anymore? What is your response to the complainant or did you leave that in the hands of the complainee by advising him of the said complaint?”

The man who complained wrote to Cllr Clark saying that “as leader of Fenland Council I had expected you would take the trouble to reply to me personally about the matter I raised with you by email.

“However it seems you passed my private email to a third party who now proceeds to call me a liar.

“Quite frankly your behaviour in this matter is appalling.”

The original complaint said a motor repair business had been operating from the site at the junction of Alpha Street and Station Road.

“He has squeezed up to 10 cars on the parcel of land and works on them at all times of the days and evening including on a Sunday,” said the complainant.

“He also parks a flatback recovery vehicle on the double yellow lines causing traffic issues at an already dangerous junction. He also leaves it on double yellow lines overnight.”

The letter of complaint said the matter was causing concern to many residents and posed a danger if oil was not being stored and drained correctly.

Cllr Clark, whose declaration of interests on the Fenland Council website refers to an unspecified piece of land in Station Road, is the owner of the site that previously a building belonging to the March Allotments and Gardens Association.

“There appears to have been no plans for a change of use and if there had been we are sure the nearby residents would have objected in the strongest possible terms,” said the complainant.

Contents of the email sent by Bryon Harris, a friend of the business complained of, said the work carried on there was an auto-electrical business.

He questioned why anyone would be “negative to people earning a living in the proximity of your home”.

According to the man who complained:”Mr Clark has been to my house to apologise, making it clear he was there as John Clark, and not John Clark leader of the council”.

In his statement Cllr Clark said: “Thank you for your email sent on April 14 under the subject heading ‘Declaration of Interests’.

“I can confirm that I am the owner of the former allotment premises, Station Road, March. I can also confirm that this property is recorded on my FDC register of interests.

“Your email and questions within it cover issues relating to me both as a councillor and landlord.

“From the point in time that I was notified about the activities of my tenant, I have dealt with this matter as a landlord and sought to separate it from my role as councillor.

“I referred the issue to the portfolio holder for planning, Councillor Will Sutton, in order that he could deal with any planning issues with FDC planning officers.

“In my capacity as landlord, once I became aware of my tenants business activities, I made immediate contact with him to state that these were unacceptable to me and that they needed to stop.

“I have further considered my position and have reached an agreement with my tenant to terminate his tenancy of my property.

“In relation to your point about questions posed by a fellow councillor I can confirm that as an outcome of a conversation with Cllr Owen he has stated to me that all his issues have been resolved to his satisfaction.

“With the above in mind and based upon your knowledge of (he names the complainant, we haven’t) current state of health I hope that any coverage you choose to give this matter will recognise the positive attempts made by all parties to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner.”

He signed the email “Regards, John Clark – Landlord”.

It was copied into Cllr Sutton, Mr Medd and to John Carey, the press officer for Fenland District Council.

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