BASINGSTOKE'S council leader attended a conference as a guest of a property developer that has an interest in building homes in Hampshire, it has been revealed.

Cllr Ken Rhatigan was invited to a conference dinner in Manchester, hosted by Thakeham in October 2019, to discuss planning issues across the South East of England.

Thakeham promote land for redevelopment to councils across the region and have a portfolio of more than 50 sites covering 5,500 acres, according to their website.

"With expert knowledge, excellent relationships with landowners and local authorities, we are able to secure exceptional potential development land," they say on their website.

One of the sites they are promoting is a 1,100 home development to the south of Bishopstoke, near Eastleigh.

The property developer has further links with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, as Cllr Tristan Robinson, a senior councillor currently serving as cabinet member for homes and family, is the external affairs manager for Thakeham Group.

Cllr Rhatigan registered the meal with the authority as a gift, and valued it at £80, council documents show.

He said: "It is important that I listen to developers on their new ways of working and especially what they wish to bring forward in terms of Green Development as we had just declared a Climate Emergency.

"I hope they invited me because I am Leader of the Council and that I have something constructive to add to the debate about what constitutes good buildings in terms of design and the reduction of our Carbon footprint.

"There is no conflict of interest as they do not have sites for Development at the current time within the Borough."

It was revealed as part of a report on councillors' gifts and hospitalities that was noted by the authority's standards committee last week.

Councillors have to register gifts and benefits they receive with the council within 28 days of receiving them.

The report, that went before last week's standards committee, details that "particular care should be taken in relation to gifts and hospitality offered by current or potential contractors for the council".

"In certain cases the acceptance of a gift or hospitality from these sources could constitute a criminal offence, even if declared."

It goes on to say that councillors should "never accept a gift or hospitality as an inducement or reward for anything which you do as a councillor, never accept a gift or hospitality which might be open to misinterpretation, never accept a gift or hospitality which puts you under an improper obligation, and never solicit a gift or hospitality".

The report, prepared by the council's head of law, governing and monitoring, Fiona Thomsen, adds: "The nature of the gifts and hospitality referred to is consistent with what may be expected for a council and there are no entries which are outside of what could be considered in the normal course of council business and the various roles councillors have."

Only two other councillors declared gifts - Cllr Dan Putty said that he was given tickets to a flute show and Cllr Terri Reid was given a ticket to the 2019 Inspire business awards by Winchester University.