A professional body is continuing its investigation into a former senior planning officer at Northumberland County Council following a delay.

It relates to claims in an explosive report published by the local authority in January, which laid out ‘significant concerns’ in relation to a controversial and high-profile planning application.

This report said that there is ‘now significant evidence that appears to suggest that attempts were made to subvert’ the council’s planning function in relation to the Dissington Garden Village scheme.

The proposals for up to 2,000 new homes and other facilities near Ponteland, by Newcastle-based developer Lugano, sparked a High Court claim against the council in 2018 that was later dropped.

The application, which had a minded to approve resolution before it had to be reassessed, has since been withdrawn, while Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd has gone into administration.

Concerns were passed onto Northumbria Police, but the force said that ‘having considered this information, we could not find anything which would warrant a criminal investigation’.

The January meeting of the audit committee heard that information had been passed onto the relevant professional body in relation to the conduct of the former senior planning officer.

Among the allegations were that the ‘applicant/advisers were invited/allowed by a very senior officer in the planning department to write and alter parts of the report to the strategic planning committee which recommended approval'.

The report also outlined evidence that ‘a former very senior planning officer’ accepted ‘substantial’ and ‘excessive’ hospitality, including first-class rail travel, hotel accommodation and fine dining in a private room of a Michelin-starred London restaurant, from the applicant/agents and did not declare it.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said it had was investigating a complaint from the council about one of its members.

The spokeswoman said: “After a delay, the investigation has now recommenced, but it will be several months before a decision is reached.”

The administration process for Lugano Dissington Estate Ltd is ongoing, with the administrators extending it until April 2021 with the consent of creditors earlier this year.

The company's two creditors – Dissington Lending Company Ltd and Matterhorn Capital Dissington Loan Ltd - were owed £41.5million at the time of administration.