A NORTH EAST MP has been threatened with legal action after he described a Northumberland green belt developer as "universally detested".
Hexham MP Guy Opperman has told the House of Commons the behaviour of Tyneside-based property firm Lugano is “outrageous,” “totally wrong” and was a sign of the firm “taking the community for fools”.
Lugano is trying to develop plans for 280 houses at Birney Hill, Ponteland, in the face of large local opposition.
It also owns the 2,500-acre Dissington Estate next to Ponteland and is acting for other landowners interested in developing their holdings in and around Ponteland and Darras Hall.
In a direct attack on the firm, the Conservative MP accused them of being backed by a Switzerland-based trust which pays no UK tax. He also claimed in Parliament that the firm was hiring up former Northumberland County Council planning officers.
Last night the firm at the centre of the speech accused Mr Opperman of seeking “to abuse Parliamentary privilege by making unfounded allegations”.
Lugano has as its chairman Barry Moat, the North East millionaire who was at one time in the running to buy up Newcastle United.
His development ideas were welcomed by the vice-chair of the Town and Country Planning Association who said it was appalling that Government’s did not do more to help responsible home building.
A spokeswoman said: “If he repeats these allegations publicly, we will consider appropriate legal action.”
In his speech in parliament Mr Opperman said: “A company called Lugano is universally detested for the way that it is buying up huge swathes of land for green belt development. Lugano is not registered in this country and appears to be owned by a private trust in Guernsey.
“I have no way of finding out who the real owners are, where the profits go or where it pays its taxes. Sources tell me that the beneficiary of the trust is a Jewish organisation based in Lugano, Switzerland, and clearly, as a result, it would not be liable for any taxation in this country.
“It certainly has no experience of the sort of development that it is proposing. Furthermore, Lugano seems to be employing former officers of the local county council.
“Those officers have failed to produce the mineral plans and local development plans that we all require under localism and, having been paid off £500,000 by the local authority, they are now being employed to advise developers how to get round the planning system that they so grievously failed to organise prior to their departure with the pay-off.”