A senior national park official has had to apologise after failing to declare a personal interest while making decisions on green lanes.
Christopher Pennell, chairman of the Peak District National Park Authority’s Audit, Resources and Performance Committee made his apology following a complaint from a sporting organisation.
The Peak and Derbyshire Vehicle User Group (PDVUG) made a formal complaint to the authority after discovering that Mr Pennell was a member of Friends of the Peak District, an organisation that is actively seeking to ban off-road vehicles from its green lanes as part of its Take Back the Tracks campaign.
The vehicle user group argued that this came into conflict with Mr Pennell’s position within the authority, in which he is instrumental in the imposition of traffic regulation orders (TRO), which ban vehicles from using them.
The PDVUG represents trail–riders and off–roaders and has been at odds with the authority recently over the imposition of TROs in the national park.
Nigel Bennett, of the PDVUG, said: “Surely it’s a conflict of interest if the chairman of the committee in charge of handing out traffic regulation orders is a member of a group opposed to off–roaders?”
The response he received about the complaint from the Peak Park’s monitoring officer stated that Mr Pennell had been instructed to apologise to the authority at a meeting earlier this month after failing to declare a personal interest as a member of Friends of the Peak District on items relating to TROs at meetings held in May this year and November last year. It also informed Nigel that he would not be able to appeal against the decision. Unsatisfied by the response he received, Nigel has taken his complaint to the ombudsman.
To view the Peak Park’s Member’s Code of Conduct, visit www.peakdistrict.gov.uk
A spokesman for the Peak District National Park Authority explained there are two types of complaints – personal and personal or prejudicial, both of which are defined in the authority’s Code of Conduct.
“After declaring a personal interest, the member may take part in the discussions and vote,” the spokesman said.
“After declaring a prejudicial interest in any business of the authority, they must withdraw.
“At the full authority meeting on October 4 2013, Mr Pennell publicly apologised for failing to declare a personal interest as a member of the Friends of the Peak District on two occasions.
“He did not have a prejudicial interest as defined under the code.”