'Beware of distorted stories surrounding Council chief,' says DUP man

Duddy defends handling of complaints

The proposed Merrow Resort and Spa
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A DUP councillor has warned the public to beware of stories “peddled” by a minority of members surrounding the conduct of Cloonavin's chief executive.

George Duddy spoke out in defence of his party's decision to back the halting of disciplinary proceedings against David Jackson last Tuesday.

That move came after an investigation report from a team of HR consultants that was leaked to the BBC.

It was commissioned by councillors after North Antrim MLA Jim Allister made a series of claims over the handling of a planning application for a £20m hotel located close to the NW200 Paddock just outside Portstewart.

The affair has generated attention focused on transfer of access rights to the developer.

A judicial review launched by Mr Allister ultimately saw planning approval quashed.

Mr Duddy said events had been greatly distorted by social media coverage of the leaked report.

“The only story the public are aware of is the one being peddled by a small minority of councillors,” he said.

“Those of us who are fully aware of the facts, and have taken time to read all the documentation in regards to the right of way – which was subjected to examination over 22 days of a judicial review – are disgusted and appalled at the unwarranted characterisation of the Chief Executive and other members of the senior management team.

“Since the Judicial review, independent auditors Moore NI have prepared a report that contains recommendations that would have tightened up procedures surrounding land issues.

“But those councillors who are conducting this campaign refuse to accept it.

“This was never a case were land was simply handed over to a developer.

“It was a decision backed by the majority of councillors – it was a council decision not one made by the chief executive.

“And its aim was to promote tourism and generate jobs.

“And while the council didn't benefit financially, we would have done so in the long run through rates and economic development.

“In any case, the developer already had a right of way over council land to their property.

“The reason for proving an alternative access was to ensure the NW200 was not disrupted,” Councillor Duddy concluded.

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