West Norfolk councillors’ fury over conduct complaints

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Campaigners against a major housing scheme have made formal complaints against two councillors amid claims of bullying and “contempt” for the public.

The allegations about West Norfolk Council’s deputy leader, Alistair Beales, and backbencher Patrick Rochford were lodged by objectors to the Lynnsport and Marsh Lane project at the weekend.

But Mr Beales dismissed the accusations, which were lodged at the weekend, as “nonsense.”

The complaints have been lodged by Sue Bruce, secretary of the Lynnsport Area Residents’ Association (LARA), which opposes the council’s proposals for the area.

The document claims that both Mr Beales and Mr Rochford have breached the authority’s code of conduct in their handling of the issue.

It said: “They have shown blatant contempt for the public and have brought the borough council into disrepute.”

Mrs Bruce’s complaint alleges that Mr Beales had failed to act in the public interest over the development or disclose a family connection to the Lynn Pelicans hockey club, which is due to benefit from two replacement pitches as part of the project.

It also argues that Mr Beales’ refusal to support a referendum on the development, as the borough council did over the Lynn incinerator scheme, was a “blatant contradiction” that demonstrated he was not properly representing the views of the public.

But Mr Beales said he had become aware of inaccurate statements which campaigners were planning to make when an inquiry into the council’s wider development plans resumes later this month.

He described the complaint against him as “totally unwarranted”, adding: “I think the fact the Lynn News has been made aware of this before I have says everything about the way these people operate.

“To say it goes against my sense of natural justice is putting it mildly.”

Meanwhile, the complaint also alleges Mr Rochford, one of three councillors for the Gaywood North Bank ward, which includes the disputed site, had sought to obtain information about LARA of which disclosure would put the group in breach of data protection laws and made a number of false allegations about the group on social media.

It went on: “Cllr Rochford’s personal accusations and slurs on LARA and individuals are outrageous and unprofessional and amount to bullying.”

Mr Rochford said yesterday he had not been contacted about any complaints against him and denied the suggestion he had sought to force LARA to release information illegally.

But, although he described it as “Twitter spatting”, he did concede he sometimes struggled to find the correct tone.

He said: “One of the things I have had a problem with since becoming a councillor is realising my comments need to be more professional. I think I’m slowly learning that.”