Three Tory councillors revealed as Freemasons

Three Hastings councillors have been revealed as Freemasons – including the head of planning and the man driving the £100million link road scheme.

Conservatives Terry Fawthrop, Matthew Lock and John Wilson are all members of the clandestine organisation which has at its heart a pledge to help out other masons.

The Observer made the discovery after trawling through council records at the town hall – records which carry details of councillors' outside interests.

Cllr Fawthrop is the chairman of the local authority's planning committee, which is charged with making decisions on controversial applications and large developments.

And his colleague Cllr Lock sits on both the borough council and the county council, where he is head of Transport and Environment.

Part of that role sees him leading the Hastings Bexhill Link Road scheme. However, the Tory hit back at concerns being a freemason may be a conflict of interests with his work as a councillor.

Speaking to the Observer, Cllr Lock said: "Being a freemason is an important part of my life. It is an escape from the very public life of being a councillor.

"The two things are very separate and I do not let them cross over. No mason has ever approached me and asked me to push things through for them. I wouldn't be very happy if they did.

"The Freemasons is a charitable organisation and one which I get a lot of pleasure from being a member of. If however I was working as a councillor and was involved in any form of decision making on either a fellow mason, or the lodge, I would declare an interest and leave the room.

"Over the last ten years the Freemasons have become far more open. We are far from a secret underground movement."

Local Labour leader Cllr Jeremy Birch said he hoped that membership of what he called a "secret brotherhood" would not influence decision making and that there were no councillors who had failed to declare their mason membership.

The Observer also uncovered some other interesting outside interests among councillors.

Labour councillor Andrew Cartwright is a member of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth while his colleague Cllr Peter Chowney has backed the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

And council leader Peter Pragnell felt the need to declare the fact he is a long-suffering member of the Hastings and Bexhill Charlton Athletic Supporters' Club. With the team currently slumming it in League One, it probably wasn't something he wanted to shout about.

What do you think? Is being a Freemason a conflict of interests? Leave your comments below.