Northern Ireland news

DUP's Luke Poots facing questions over mother's maiden name on planning application

DUP MLA Edwin Poots and his son, DUP councillor Luke Poots. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP's Luke Poots is facing questions over why a planning application to build three houses to replace his home was made in his mother's maiden name.

The councillor – whose father is DUP MLA Edwin Poots – is also alleged to have approached a neighbouring landowner about buying a site access strip while chair of the council's planning committee.

A note believed to have been written by Mr Poots appears to set out the proposal – and also suggests the landowner could get planning approval for his own development "worth £150,000 to £200,000".

When contacted by the BBC, Mr Poots denied writing the note or making the approach. The 28-year-old denied doing anything improper over attempts to develop the land at his home.

Mr Poots 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.

In April the councillor insisted he has "done everything by the book", but announced that he would no longer take part in committee decisions when his father makes a representation.

A planning application to build three houses to replace a farmhouse at Comber Road in Hillsborough, Co Down, was submitted in December.

Mr Poots moved there earlier this year, giving it as his new address on the register of councillors' interests held by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

The planning 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 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.

However, in a section further down the 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.

It also appears Mr Poots made a handwritten proposal to a neighbouring landowner attempting to gain extra access to the site.

The note indicates a willingness to pay the landowner £8,000 for a "strip of land to make [a] lane the same size as [the] current lane".

It also suggests the possibility the landowner receiving planning approval under a scheme called "active farmer status" to "allow a building site for [the landowner] worth 150,000 to 200,000 pounds".

The note does not say how this would be achieved, as the landowner does not qualify for active farmer status.

Mr Poots denied writing it, but a handwriting expert told the BBC she was "near certain" the councillor wrote the note.

TUV leader Jim Allister called for the plans to be examined by Stormont's Department for Infrastructure.

"Why is the name being used that is being used? Why's the address not the address? Is it her son under the guise of his mother making this application? Those are questions that the Poots family need to answer with clarity," he said.

DUP councillor Luke Poots with his father, DUP assembly member Edwin Poots. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

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