LABOUR councillors have questioned whether their Conservative opponents are in a position to rule on a controversial garden centre bid, promising 300 jobs, after the local party received a £20,000 donation from the applicant.
Libra Textiles, parent company of Boundary Mill in Colne, is on record as making the donation to Pendle Conservatives last June.
And tomorrow night, the Colne area committee, with seven Tory councillors holding a majority vote, will decide upon a new garden centre, cafe and farm shop on land off Greenfield Road.
Party bosses have insisted there is no conflict of interest in their members voting on the planning application – and local sources say they see no reason to excuse themselves from the proceedings.
But the sole Labour member of the committee, Coun Ian Tweedie, who represents Vivary Bridge ward, has spoken out.
He said: “It’s a fact that the parent company of Boundary Mill, Libra Textiles, donated £20,000 less than 12 months ago to the local Conservative Party and here we have a major planning application submitted, upon which questions could be raised by a neutral person, if it is passed, and the voting record of Tory councillors.
“The Labour Party and I are not against employment opportunities in Pendle for our residents but the system needs to be a fair and transparent one.”
Coun Mohammed Iqbal, Labour group leader, added: “It is a matter for the Pendle Conservative Party and their councillors what they do but £20,000 was a large donation and in such a short space of time councillors have a big decision to make. The people of Pendle will be watching closely."
Philip Mousdale, deputy chief executive of Pendle Council and the authority’s monitoring officer, declined to say, when asked by the Lancashire Telegraph, whether the £20,000 donation qualified as a ‘pecuniary’ interest.
But Mr Mousdale added: “On any planning application councillors need to consider whether they can properly take part. We are willing to give advice to them about this on an individual basis.”
A Conservative Party North West spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative Party are fully and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission and published on their website for public view.”
Coun Paul White, a Conservative councillor on the committee said that the decision would be left to individual councillors.
He added: “Whether they intend to vote is again up to them, although there is no reason they cannot.
“None have a pecuniary interest.”
Libra Textiles declined to comment.