A PLANNING boss at the centre of a probe involving controversial supermarket plans has confirmed he will temporarily step down – in order to side with residents.
Councillor Mike Denness has informed colleagues of his decision.
The Millbrook councillor said he will relinquish his chairmanship of the authority’s planning and rights of way panel when proposals for a new Lidl store in Shirley are discussed.
He will instead side with angry residents, who oppose the supermarket’s plans to build on the former police station on Shirley High Street.
The announcement comes as civic chiefs confirmed they would launch an enquiry into a complaint made against Cllr Denness for his conduct over the proposals.
Council bosses have been asked to investigate after councillor Denness and fellow Milbrook colleagues hosted a public meeting into the supermarket plans.
At that meeting, Cllr Denness handed out leaflets, in which he asked residents to post their thoughts on the application to London-based consultants Local Dialogue.
It was later revealed that the company, for who Cllr Denness is listed as a director, has previously done work for Lidl in other parts of the country.
A spokesperson for Southampton City Council said: “Our monitoring officer has received a complaint and the matter is being ?dealt with in accordance with the council’s procedures.
“There will be no further comment until the completion of this process “
The councillor has already been rapped across the knuckles by council leader Simon Letts for his conduct.
The Labour chief admitted his colleague made a mistake by submitting a business address on his flyers.
However he insisted the Milbrook councillor had only offered a private address, rather than his civic details, to save residents money over postage.
He also firmly rejected calls for Cllr Denness to resign.
Cllr Letts said: “I have spoken to Mike about the issue.“I’ve said that if he is in this position in the future he should use his council details and makes it clear that it is for the purposes of contacting him about that issue.“He told me he had used that address as his business has a freepost facility and he was attempting to save residents from paying for postage.”
Councillor Letts added: “It was one of those things where he was attempting to do the right thing and it ended up wrong.
“As far as I’m concerned its an open and shut case.”
The issue was raised at full council on Wednesday when Conservative leader, Jeremy Moulton, quizzed councillor Denness with a pre-submitted question.
Councillor Denness replied by stating he would step down as chair of the meeting in which the application is discussed.
An unsatisfied councillor Moulton retorted that he felt councillor Denness’ actions were “inappropriate” and asked if he would resign.
The Milbrook councillor looked set to answer the question.
However he was stopped in his tracks by the council’s chief legal officer, who requested he did not respond due to the potential investigation.
Source : DailyEcho