Revealed: Derbyshire council pursued secretive land deal with a convicted drug dealer for months

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The leadership of a Derbyshire council pursued a secretive land deal with a convicted drug dealer for months, emails have revealed.

Derbyshire Dales District Council officers discussed a deal with Kevin Brough over land his son owns at Hasker Farm off Stainsbro Lane, near Kirk Ireton and Carsington Water, for more than eight months – between May 2022 and February 2023.

Emails from the council, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, show that the authority’s leadership were aware of Kevin Brough’s identity but did not carry out any background checks or even a Google search to discover that he is a convicted drug dealer.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The authority did not contact Derbyshire police until eight months into its negotiations to enquire about Kevin Brough’s publicly available criminal background and appears to have only done so after a councillor sent them a news article about one of his convictions and the district’s MP raised concerns – following contact from residents and media.

Matlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District Council, which pursued a secretive land deal with a convicted drug dealer for months.Matlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District Council, which pursued a secretive land deal with a convicted drug dealer for months.
Matlock Town Hall, headquarters of Derbyshire Dales District Council, which pursued a secretive land deal with a convicted drug dealer for months.

The vast majority of councillors, including the local ward member, were not aware of the potential deal being pursued or its ownership, with officials and “political leadership” choosing to keep all information highly confidential, even when requesting quotes from utility firms, emails show.

The reasoning given for this by the authority’s chief executive, Paul Wilson was the “racial prejudice” which Travellers faced, which hampered the authority’s long-held failed legal duty to find permanent sites in the district.

Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for the Derbyshire Dales, made clear in emails to Mr Wilson that she had concerns about an apparent lack of basic due diligence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She raised concerns about discussions between council officials and Brough and wrote: “To be perfectly frank I no longer have confidence in the council’s ability to investigate or adequately respond to these matters.”

Brough’s son stood to receive thousands of pounds of taxpayer money through the sale or rent of his land for a four-pitch Traveller plot, on top of the authority looked to spend almost half a million pounds on developing the site – including making Kevin Brough himself a warden for the facility.

Council officials carried out numerous site visits, meeting Kevin Brough in person on his property near Carsington Water, and also invited him to two meetings at Matlock Town Hall.

The authority says all correspondence with Brough himself has been verbal, because “discussions had not reached any stage of formality”, this despite negotiations over the sale or rent of the site having taken place for months, numerous visits, including from firms quoting for the contracts for connection facilities like electricity and water to the site, and the council paying thousands for site valuations and designs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In 2006, Kevin Brough was jailed at Hull Crown Court for five years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply drugs across four counties. He was ordered to sell all of his assets – worth £447,124.29 – in order to settle a confiscation order. In fact, the police estimated he had benefited from his criminal lifestyle to the tune of nearly £750,0000.

In July 2015, Brough was sentenced to five years and nine months in jail for possessing cannabis with intent to supply and conspiracy to supply cannabis linked to a £1.6 million drugs gang operation.

This included police searches and seizures from properties owned by Brough in Hognaston and Kirk Ireton, including a 1.5kg tub of cannabis resin.

Brough later also pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to convert criminal property.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His prison term was reduced to four years and nine months after an appeal.

A BBC article detailing the 2007 conviction is among the first results which appear when searching Brough’s name in Google.

The council’s chief executive, Paul Wilson, admitted in an email to Dales MP Ms Dines, released under a Freedom of Information request, that “the council does not routinely research the personal history of individuals whom it deals with”.

Brough had approached the council with the potential offer for the land to be used as a Traveller site in May 2022, after the authority asked for landowners to come forward with plots – to end a decades-long failure to allocate sites.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Emails sent between officers In May, after that site submission, show documents were exchanged detailing that the site was owned by John Brough, the son of Kevin Brough.

These show that the land was sold by father to son on July 29, 2014, and paid for on May 30, 2014 for £15,000 – shortly before Kevin Brough’s second conviction.

The LDRS has also seen notes from Tim Braund, the council’s head of regulatory services, from an August 11, 2022, meeting recording the name Kevin Brough. A delegated urgent decision document dated September 26 last year refers to the known identities and relationship of Kevin Brough and John Brough, saying “the site in the ownership of a father and son who have approached us via a ‘call for sites’ exercise to suggest /offer the site subject to a suitable financial arrangement being agreed”.

On November 16, 2022, Mr Wilson emailed officers to say they should not give too high of a bid to buy the land to “Mr Brough” to avoid setting the bar too high for negotiations.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Later that day, Mike Galsworthy, the council’s estates and facilities manager, sent an email to officers writing “the difficult issue is that we are in effect a special purchaser as we don’t have other options available and the site owner is a special ‘vendor’ as he has links to the traveller community’”.

The emails appear to show that while John Brough is the registered owner of the site, the council was dealing with Kevin Brough as the “site owner”.

On January 26, 2023, after receiving an email from the LDRS raising questions to the council about the potential use of a site near Carsington Water as a Traveller site, Cllr Janet Rose emailed Mr Wilson, Mr Braund, Cllr Garry Purdy (the now former leader of the council) and Cllr Sue Hobson (now the new leader of the council).

She wrote: “I am writing to you all as a matter of urgency. Until Tuesday evening I knew nothing about this site and the owner.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I will forward a report of his criminal activities from the BBC. It would appear that we are now desperate.

“Travellers have a bad enough reputation without holing them up with criminals.

“I can understand why the landowner has come forward.

“I have not replied to the reporter and seek guidance please.”

Cllr Rose then sent a link to the 2006 BBC article containing details of Brough’s first drug conviction to Mr Wilson, Mr Braund, and Cllrs Purdy and Hobson.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Braund then sent an email to James McLaughlin, the council’s monitoring officer, and Rob Cogings, the council’s head of housing, saying: “It would appear that Cllr Rose has caught on as to where the proposed site might be and who owns it.”

An email from Mr Galsworthy to Mr Cogings, sent a day later, details that he had a call from Brough, writing: “He has had a number of visitors since we met and is now more determined to proceed with the site than he was previously.

“He says with a few minor tweaks to the figures discussed earlier this week he is ready to reach a deal with us so that we can get on with the planning application process.”

On February 1, 2023, Ms Dines emailed Mr Wilson, Cllr Purdy, Cllr Hobson, Cllr Dermot Murphy and Cllr Rose, making clear that she had seen the name of the owner of the land transfer, and of Brough’s convictions.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She wrote: “Residents are concerned that the District Council have not done their due diligence in ascertaining the legality of any land transfer and it is clear that [REDACTED] is the beneficial owner of the land.

“What due diligence has been done in relation to the prospective vendor and/or agent?”

We understand that it was only on the following day (February 2) that Mr Wilson contacted Derbyshire police – seven days after receiving Cllr Rose’s concerns about Brough’s serious criminal history.

Later that day Mr Wilson drafted his response to Ms Dines, sent to Mr McLaughlin, Mr Braund and Mr Cogings, writing: “Very few people have been aware of these discussions, however, the Leader and Deputy Leader have been fully briefed throughout.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Council have undertaken title checks with HM Land Registry to confirm ownership of the site.

“Officers had no knowledge of previous criminal convictions and neither would we have known this information had it not been brought to our attention.

“The Council does not routinely research the personal history of landowners.

“However, now that this information has been brought to our attention, I have sought to make appropriate enquiries as to whether there are any matters or concerns outstanding.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a February 10 email, Ms Dines raised further concerns about the deal. Mr Wilson responded on February 17, writing: “Derbyshire Police are now aware of the discussions that have been undertaken between the District Council and Mr. Kevin Brough and have not revealed to me any matters that are currently under Police investigation.”

Ms Dines, on February 20 wrote: “As the chief executive you are responsible for good governance at DDDC.

“Due diligence is at the heart of good governance and is generally considered to involve the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is normally expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party.

“As the chief executive of DDDC you, not the political leadership, have a duty to exercise care before entering into an agreement with another commercial party.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Who at the DDDC is responsible for this shortfall in exercising your due diligence? A 2-minute Google search of Kevin Brough’s name would have revealed his extensive criminal history.

“To be perfectly frank I no longer have confidence in the council’s ability to investigate or adequately respond to these matters.”

Two days after Ms Dines’ email, on February 22, nearly three weeks later, the council released a statement, following a close-doors briefing with councillors on February 21 (a day after her latest email), in which it claimed the authority was “deciding not to pursue” the land, claiming “the site is not financially viable for the council or deliverable”.

The council said it had no further comment to add in response to the LDRS’ findings, referring back to its February 22 statement.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Dines told the LDRS: ‘’The more one learns about the Hasker Farm debacle, the more questions need to be asked of the district council’s senior officers.

“I have written to the chief executive Paul Wilson about this and I await his reply.

“The lack of basic due diligence on the part of those charged with safeguarding the reputation of the council is of deep concern.

“The thousands of pounds of council tax payers’ money wasted on this project is deplorable.

“Hiding this all from local elected councillors has compounded this egregious disservice to the people of Derbyshire Dales.’’