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DUP councillor Poots denies wrongdoing in planning case and reports BBC man to police

By Suzanne Breen

DUP councillor Luke Poots has denied any wrongdoing after a planning application to build three houses to replace his home was made in his mother's maiden name.

Mr Poots, the son of DUP MLA Edwin Poots, is the former chairman of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council's planning committee.

Yesterday he said he had reported veteran BBC journalist Kevin Magee to police for alleged harassment following the report, which raised questions over a planning application relating to his property on the Comber Road in Hillsborough.

If the application went through it would increase the value of the land.

The BBC last night strongly defended its journalism and said the investigation was undertaken in accordance with its editorial guidelines.

The BBC reported the planning application was not made by Luke Poots but by his mother Glynis Poots, and was made under her maiden name of Rachel M Gracey.

The BBC alleged Luke Poots may have proposed a deal to a neighbouring landowner after the broadcaster obtained a note appearing to suggest the landowner sell him an access strip to the land proposed for development.

Mr Poots has denied writing the note or making any approach and said in a text message to the BBC: "Nope. None of that's true."

Mr Poots said "all relevant declarations were made" regarding the planning application.

"As I am a councillor and that connection was declared, the application is being dealt with on its merits through a more rigorous process specifically designed for applicants connected to councillors," he said.

"The postal address given in the application is the planning agent's address. The reason my mother's maiden name was used was to ensure the application was dealt with fairly.

"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 application process has continued for six months properly and appropriately."

Luke Poots said he had "reported Mr Magee to the police for harassment".

The BBC said in a statement: "We believe this investigation dealt with matters of legitimate public interest.

"It was undertaken in accordance with the BBC's editorial guidelines."

TUV leader Jim Allister criticised the decision to report Mr Magee to the PSNI.

Mr Allister said: "Luke Poots reports BBC journalist to the police for harassment over pursuing him for answers to legitimate questions over planning application.

"Just answer the questions!

"Is Councillor Poots admitting the application is really for him and he is the land owner?

"Then why was Certificate A completed declaring his mother as the owner since Section 42(6) of Planning Act NI 2011 is clear."

Alliance councillor Aaron McIntyre said the BBC's report "raise serious questions" about Luke Poots.

"These concerns must be investigated thoroughly as, if what is alleged is correct, it is at the very least a serious breach of the code of conduct we all must respect as elected representatives," Mr McIntyre said.

He added: "While an investigation could potentially prove more serious findings, I would urge Luke and his family to co-operate fully so this matter can be cleared up once and for all."

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