Council chiefs last night said land at the heart of a £200,000 wall repair row does not belong to finance convener Willie Young.
This week it emerged that repairs worth hundreds of thousands of pounds were ordered on land at Wellington Brae without proper approval or scrutiny from councillors.
Mr Young was approached by senior council officers from as early as August last year asking to confirm ownership of the land and approve the project.
Correspondence seen by the Press and Journal shows officers stated he had “verbally approved” the scheme – funded by cycle body Sustrans as the Brae is part of the national Dover to Shetland route.
It appears this decision was made on the basis of the council thinking he was the landowner.
On Tuesday night, council chiefs halted the project and were forced into an embarrassing climbdown after it emerged more than £200,000 of public money had been set aside for the repairs without it going through any council committee.
An internal investigation has been launched to find out why Mr Young, who lives near to the land and owned it in the early 1990s, was approached by council officers as the landowner and why there had been no scrutiny by elected members.
Mr Young at first said he didn’t know who owned it but has since said it doesn’t belong to him.
He also said he had never claimed to be the landowner – but said he needed clarity from his solicitor on the situation.
Last night the local authority said Mr Young was not the owner – but refused to clarify who was.
A council spokesman said: “Further to earlier statements in relation to the repairs of the cycleway at Wellington Brae, we can confirm that the records we have seen in respect of land ownership show that the registered title holder of the land in question is not councillor Willie Young.
“We are not in a position to confirm who the owner is due to data protection requirements.
“The fact that councillor Young was contacted by council officers as landowner forms part of the ongoing review into the circumstances of the project. Until that review is concluded it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
A freedom of information request also indicates the council approached the landowner about the works, while the opposition SNP group had legally scrutinised title deeds through a solicitor which appeared to indicate that Mr Young was the owner of the land.
And last night an online news report emerged, which the Press and Journal cannot verify, stating the finance convener had “confirmed he was in ownership” to a council official.
The document appeared to be a leaked e-mail dated March 29 this year.
It did not state when Mr Young was supposed to have said this.
Last night Mr Young released a statement reading: “My solicitor Keith Allan, Raeburn Christie Clark and Wallace, yesterday confirmed that I did not own the land at Wellington Brae. I have now been notified by the council that they too are satisfied I do not own title in respect of Wellington Brae.”
Mr Young added he was now considering taking legal action against the SNP and was unable to make any further comment.
SNP Ferryhill councillor, Graham Dickson, added: “We are still left with many more questions than answers at this point in time and it is vital that the whole story is made public.
“Why does it appear that councillor Young verbally authorised work on the land, why did he continue to entertain discussions with council officers about the construction work on Wellington Brae?
“We also do not know why all normal procedures were not followed before agreeing the work on the land, as councillor Young has oversight around corporate governance it should have been very obvious to him that procedures had been missed.”