THE chairman of Whiteparish Parish Council has been cleared of misconduct following a row over housing plans for his village.
Trevor King welcomed Monday’s decision by Salisbury District Council’s standards committee, which came after a lengthy investigation.
He said: “It has been a very unpleasant experience, and I am obviously very pleased with the outcome.
“I have been a parish councillor for 20 years and this just makes me more determined than ever to carry on.”
The row, which came to a head last October, split the village. It stemmed from two separate events.
The first was the submission of a planning application by Wiltshire Rural Housing Association to build affordable homes. The parish council supported it, but the chosen site, in Newton Lane, was fiercely opposed by some residents.
The second was a controversial consultation exercise launched by the district council, asking landowners throughout the area to suggest sites for 12,400 extra houses. Mr King, a farm manager, put forward some of his own land, opposite the affordable homes site.
Standards committee chairman Rodney Job said it was “extremely unfortunate” that the two issues got tangled up in people’s minds while the consultation was “raising passions”.
A letter on parish council headed paper was sent out urging people to write to the district council in support of the affordable housing before the parish councillors had met to consider it, which enraged the objectors.
Cllr King was ousted as chairman by a vote of no confidence - only to be re-elected a month later, which prompted three other councillors to resign.
Meanwhile resident Tim Taylor-Blake had complained to the district council, accusing him of abusing his position.
But David Taylor, an independent lawyer who investigated the complaint, found that Mr King did not break any rules.
Mr Taylor said the parish clerk, Anita Boakes, was asked to write the letter by the housing association. It was “ill-timed and inappropriate” but was written in good faith, and he did not consider that Mr King instigated it or compromised her impartiality.
He might have shown a “lack of judgment” in letting her send it out. But in any case it was not intended to exert influence over the parish council.
The standards committee heard that parish councillors receive little or no training, and members agreed to write to Wiltshire Council asking for this to be provided.
Mr King was not at the meeting, but said afterwards: “I appreciate that the standards committee has a job to do. But these allegations have cost thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to investigate.
“As soon as the issue of housing is raised in the village, people get upset.
“Parish councillors are in a very difficult position. A lot of people think it’s an easy job, but we devote a lot of time and energy to our local communities.
“I would like to thank the people who have shown their support for me.”