A PROMINENT Hampshire businessman and long-serving councillor is facing a string of historic sex abuse charges against young children, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Robert Giddings, the long-standing chairman of Netley Marsh Parish Council, allegedly abused three young girls over a period of time stretching back 30 years.

The father-of-three was charged by detectives following a three-month investigation into the allegations.

Giddings was initially arrested in January this year following claims made by three women who were all under the age of 14 when the alleged offences took place.

The charges relate to incidents that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s and are believed to have involved a girl aged 11.

In February this year he quit his role as chairman of the parish council, having served around 15 years.

At the time, his resignation was met with regret from his fellow councillors who publically thanked him for his good work, encouragement and support.

Giddings, 53, from Bartley, is a well known businessman who was a boss at his familyrun sawmill RF Giddings in Ringwood which employs more than 35 people.

Giddings worked there as sales director alongside his father Bryan, two brothers Tony and John and sister Linda.

His company last night comfirmed he had retired at the end of February.

The Daily Echo understands he is no longer part of the business and has also recently moved to a new home in Ringwood.

A spokesman for Hampshire police confirmed: “Police have charged a 53-year-old Bartley man with historic child sex abuse offences. Robert Anthony Giddings, of Ringwood Road, Bartley, has been charged with four offences, under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, of indecent assault on a girl under 14 years of age.

“Mr Giddings has been bailed to appear at Southampton Magistrates’ Court on May 18.”