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Housing Secretary admits unlawfully approving former Tory donor’s development

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  • 28/05/2020
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Housing Secretary admits unlawfully approving former Tory donor’s development
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has accepted he unlawfully approved a former Tory donor’s £1bn housing project in the Isle of Dogs the day before increased community charges were imposed on developers.

 

Richard Desmond, businessman and owner of development firm Northern & Shell, avoided paying up to £50m under revisions made to the council’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) when the project was approved on 14 January. 

The site was formerly owned by Westferry Printworks which used to print The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express, papers once owned by Desmond.  

Government planning inspectors also advised Jenrick against approving the project to build 1,524 homes as they said they said the borough needed more affordable housing. 

In March, Tower Hamlets council took legal action against the decision, claiming it had been “influenced by a desire to help the developer to avoid a financial liability”.  

The council asked the government to produce documents relating to the deal but instead, Jenrick’s legal team released a statement saying the minister accepted the decision was unlawful.  

Jenrick also denied any bias was shown to Desmond who donated £10,000 to the Conservatives in 2017.  

Tower Hamlets has since had the decision to build the development overturned. 

The council’s mayor, John Biggs, said: “We may never know what emails and memos the secretary of state received before making his decision and what influence they had, but his reluctance to disclose them speaks volumes. 

“In siding with the developer, he went against not only the planning inspector but also the council’s Strategic Development Committee and the residents whose lives would be directly impacted by this scheme.” 

He added: “I am grateful to our legal team for their work on this case and for successfully holding the government to account.  

“We will continue to press for a scheme that meets the needs of the community on the Isle of Dogs in terms of height and density, the provision of adequate affordable housing and infrastructure delivery.” 

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