Fareham councillor in plan row ‘was about to be suspended’

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A COUNCILLOR who split from the Tories to go independent was about to be suspended, the group’s leader has claimed.

Fareham borough councillor Nick Gregory announced last month that he and Tory colleague Cllr Dave Whittingham were leaving the group because of concerns over the council’s leadership and proposals for a new solar power farm at south Fareham.

Cllr Gregory has also been reported to the council’s monitoring officer by Cllr Woodward for potentially breaching its code of conduct.

Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘I was just about to suspend him from the Conservative party because I was concerned about his behaviour, but he jumped before he was pushed.’

Cllr Gregory has put in a planning application to build a new four-bedroom home next to his business, Little Munchkins Nursery on The Avenue in Fareham.

But he has been accused by Cllr Woodward of repeatedly lobbying members of the council’s planning committee to support his application – which could be found to breach the council’s code of conduct.

‘I became concerned because Cllr Gregory was contacting and lobbying members of the planning committee,’ Cllr Woodward claimed.

But Cllr Gregory said this was the second time he had applied for permission to build a home on the site with the first being rejected at the start of this year.

And he denied badgering his colleagues into supporting him.

He said: ‘That hasn’t happened. I feel he’s trying to smear me.

‘The day I sent an email saying I was leaving the Conservative group I received a reply from Cllr Woodward a while later asking me to speak to him before I said anything, as it would be “immensely damaging to your friends and colleagues”, then how can he say later in the day that he was intending to suspend me?’

Cllr Gregory first ran as a Conservative candidate during 2009’s county council elections for Portchester, but was beaten.

The next year he ran in the Fareham north-west district by-election as a Lib Dem, which he won.

However, within weeks, he quit the group and rejoined the Tories. He won re-election at this May’s local election.

The planning application does not yet have a date to go before the committee.