The BBC’s Mark Devenport was, apparently, talking to UUP MLA Billy Armstrong about his prefabricated constituency office “owned by his wife and based on their farm, for which he had been claiming rental costs from public funds, but Mark doesn’t appear to have seen the Belfast Telegraph beforehand. According to a report there, and in contrast to the previous descripton given here – that “the prefabricated constituency office was “purpose built” and is located on lawns close to his home” – Mr Armstrong now claims that the office was “an extension to his home and he does not consider that planning permission is required.”
A DoE Planning Service spokeswoman said: “The Divisional Planning Office has no record of planning permission being granted for a constituency office or an associated sign at this location. Enforcement action is not under way but the alleged breach will now be investigated by the division.”
Details of the landlords of MLA offices have been withheld by Stormont officials. This decision will be challenged, if necessary through a complaint to the Information Commissioner, the watchdog for the FOI Act.
The Assembly argued that revealing the identity of commercial landlord interests could cause them financial difficulties.
Its FOI response said: “Despite the considerable political developments in Northern Ireland in recent times, the potential for economic sanctions towards commercial interests from a differing community background persists.”