“Developer in £13m legal wrangle with Northumberland now plans to take council to High Court”

“A property developer who launched a £13m legal bid against Northumberland County Council says it has been banned from sharing vital information with council members.

Newcastle-based Lugano Group was due to build the Dissington Garden Village – commissioned by Northumberland CC when Labour was in power in the authority – in a move that would create 2,000 homes north of Ponteland,
But since the Conservatives gained control of the area in last year’s local elections, the Dissington project has been put under review, potentially leaving the developer with significant costs reportedly totalling over £13,305,000.

The property firm this week claimed it had “no option” but to take the claim to the High Court against the council itself, leader Peter Jackson, Cllr John Riddle, and chief executive Daljit Lally.

Lugano has said that the council’s solicitors have disclosed the report into the contents of “several anonymous letters of complaints” regarding the conduct of Cllr Jackson and documents associated with that report— however, the information was disclosed 12 weeks after the request, and Northumberland only disclosed the documents subject to confidentiality provisions that bind Lugano.

In a letter to Northumberland CC dated 13 August, Lugano said the council’s solicitors had refused to provide confirmation the key pieces of information, noting that the lawyers are keeping information from council members confidential.

The property developer said that the only “reasonable inference” that can be drawn from the solicitors’ reluctance to disclose the information is that the council would attempt to sue Lugano if copies of the report were provided to the cabinet committee, and those tasked with reviewing the decision to indemnify the legal costs that will incur in defending Lugano’s proceedings.

“We strongly disagree with the council’s solicitors’ comment that they would have a cause of action against Lugano if we were to disclose the report and documents,” the letter said.

In a statement, Northumberland County Council denied all allegations, labelling them “inappropriate, untrue, and defamatory.”

A spokesperson added: “We are aware of further correspondence from the Lugano Group, and continue to take legal advice in this regard.
“As previously stated, we believe that the council has acted lawfully and reasonably throughout this process. We continue to work with Lugano on their live planning application for Dissington Garden Village.”