Leading Horsham Conservative steps down after job with developer comes under the spotlight
A leading Horsham Conservative has stepped down ‘with immediate effect’ after he recognised that there must be no possible perception of any conflict of interest after being employed by a developer seeking to build thousands of new homes in the district.
Adrian Lee represented Denne on Horsham district councillor between 2015 and 2019 and was until this week chairman of the Horsham Conservative Association (HCA).
Thakeham is promoting a strategic site for thousands of new homes at Buck Barn as part of Horsham District Council’s local plan process.
Mr Lee has been employed by the company since August in its external affairs team.
But this week both he and the company were asked whether the appointment constituted a conflict of interest.
The County Times raised the question after Mr Lee’s employment was flagged up at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
Mr Lee has since confirmed he has resigned as chairman of HCA.
Back in 2016 as a councillor, he hit the headlines when a series of expletive-laden posts were sent by a Twitter account registered under the name of Adrian M Lee. Although contacted at the time he never publicly responded.
This week he told the County Times: “I started employment with Thakeham Homes from mid-August 2021, having been asked to focus on their plans for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. I have no involvement whatsoever in Thakeham’s plans in Horsham district.
“I am not a district councillor and, as such, have no role and no vote on the Horsham local plan or planning applications within the district.
“Whilst there is no actual conflict of interest, I recognise that there must be no possible perception of any conflict and I have therefore stepped down from my voluntary role as chairman of Horsham Conservative Association with immediate effect.”
Meanwhile a spokesman for Thakeham said: “Mr. Adrian Lee commenced employment with Thakeham in mid-August 2021.
“His role within the Thakeham team is to primarily work on projects across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and our party conference programme.
“In recent weeks, Mr Lee has actively participated in the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Party conferences, together with engaging Green and Independent councillors at public events showcasing our sustainable placemaking.
“As has been clearly shown in local and national media, Mr Lee has been a very publicly visible member of the Thakeham team.
“On appointment, Thakeham declared Mr Lee’s employment with the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) in August.
“The PRCA Professional Charter and Code of Conduct includes guidance on transparency, accuracy and diversity. As part of our commitment to openness and transparency, any employee undertaking stakeholder engagement is published on the PRCA website. Further, any employee who is a Consistency Officer of a political party is prevented from working in their respective areas. Mr Lee has not participated in any Thakeham projects or engagement across Horsham or Mid-Sussex as a Constituency Party Officer in this area. We understand Mr Lee personally informed local politicians of his employment with Thakeham.”
This summer Horsham’s local plan process was delayed in response to a new government requirement for a 30-year vision.