A DUP councillor has defended his actions following suggestions of impropriety over attempts to develop land at his home.
Luke Poots – son of DUP MLA Edwin Poots – said he has reported a BBC journalist to police for harassment, in the wake of a report which appeared to raise questions over a planning application relating to his property on the Comber Road in Hillsborough, Co Down.
The report revealed that the plans had been submitted in his mother’s maiden name rather than his own.
It also alleged that Mr Poots approached a neighbouring landowner about buying a site access strip while serving as chair of the Lisburn and Castlereagh Council’s planning committee.
A note, obtained by the BBC, appears to set out the proposal – as well as suggesting the landowner could get planning approval for his own development “worth £150,000 to £200,000”.
However, Mr Poots has denied any wrongdoing and said he had acted “properly and appropriately”.
He also denied writing the note or making any approach, saying in a text message to the BBC: “Nope. None of that’s true.”
The 28-year-old is already under investigation by a council standards watchdog over an alleged conflict of interest for voting in favour of planning decisions lobbied for by his father.
The latest controversy centres on a planning application to build three houses to replace a farmhouse at Comber Road in Hillsborough, Co Down, where Mr Poots lives.
The application was not made by Mr Poots, but instead by his mother Glynis Poots.
However, it was made under her maiden name of Rachel M Gracey – and it is understood the address given on the form is not where Mrs Poots lives.
A person living at the address told the BBC they had no knowledge of anyone by that name.
In a section further down the application form asking if the applicant is related to any council staff or elected members, the words “Luke Poots, son” are recorded.
Mrs Poots declined to comment when approached by the BBC.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Poots claimed BBC reporter Kevin Magee had spent several months contacting people throughout greater Lisburn about alleged wrongdoing on his part. “He has had no success,” the DUP councillor added.
Mr Poots asserted the reason his mother’s maiden name was used on the application was to “ensure it was dealt with fairly”.
He added: “The ‘Poots’ name is associated with unionist politics. This was an attempt to have the application considered on its merits rather than through a political prism.
“The postal address given in the application is the planning agent’s address. If Mr Magee had done due diligence before broadcast, he would have realised that.”
Mr Poots also stated that “all relevant declarations” had been made and said the application was being dealt with by “a more rigorous process specifically designed for applicants connected to councillors”.
In response to councillor Poots’ remarks, a BBC spokesperson told the News Letter: “We believe that this investigation dealt with matters of legitimate public interest. It was undertaken in accordance with the BBC’s editorial guidelines.”