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Jenrick granted planning permission five days after text from Desmond about £45m bill

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  • 25/06/2020
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Jenrick granted planning permission five days after text from Desmond about £45m bill
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick received a text from Tory donor Richard Desmond warning of an impending potential £45m construction levy bill five days before granting planning permission.

 

Jenrick has admitted texting Desmond about his controversial £1bn planning application in east London after the pair were sat next to each other at a Conservative Party dinner.

Desmond lobbied the Conservative secretary of state to support his development, saying he did not want to give the “Marxists loads of doe for nothing”.

Just five days after Desmond sent another text warning that paying £45m to Tower Hamlets Council would mean the need to reduce social housing, Jenrick said he was “minded to approve” the plans.

The Conservative MP has been embroiled in controversy after overruling local planning guidance to approve the scheme for Desmond, and subsequently had to rescind his decision after a high court challenge from Labour controlled Tower Hamlets Council.

The texts, which were released as part of a cache of documents about the decision by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last night, show Desmond lobbied Jenrick about the upcoming construction levy being introduced by Tower Hamlets Council.

Jenrick also arranged a site visit with Desmond but then subsequently withdrew from the meeting.

 

‘Give Marxists loads of doe’

In one message from 20 November, Desmond discussed the impending levy, saying: “Your efficient PA has arranged a meeting for 19th December at 10.30am for meet and site visit.

“Good news finally the inspectors reports have gone to you today, we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe for nothing! We all want to go with the scheme and the social housing we have proposed and spent a month at the Marxist town hall debating, thanks again, all my best Richard.”

Jenrick replied: “As Secretary of State it is important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them and so I think it is best that we don’t meet until after the matter has been decided, one way of [sic] another ‐ and I can’t provide any advice to you on that, other than to say that I will receive advice from my officials after the general election assuming I remain in office and will consider it carefully in accordance with the rules and guidance. I hope that is okay and we can meet to discuss other matters soon, hopefully on the 19th.”

 

Application granted

However, on 15 December in reply to previous messages from Desmond, Jenrick agreed to “meet up soon”. And added “I will look at the advice regarding the application this week.”

On 23 December, Desmond sent another text: “Morning Robert How does the advice look? We have to get the approval before January 15 otherwise payment of 45 million pounds to Tower Hamlets meaning we have to stop and reduce social housing. Thanks Robert look forward to speaking soon Best Richard.”

Jenrick did not reply.

Just five days later, Jenrick told his team he was “minded to approve the application” and confirmed this decision in a further meeting with officials, on 6 January where a number of planning cases were discussed.

The decision was eventually published on 14 January, the day before Tower Hamlets Council’s housing plan became live.

 

Donations and video

It has already been revealed that Jenrick sat next to Desmond at a Conservative party dinner on 18 November where they swapped numbers and Jenrick watched a promotional video about the development.

Subsequent £12,000 donations by Desmond have since been revealed.

The latest revelation came as Jenrick published a letter to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee which included 129 pages of emails and other supporting evidence requested by the MPs.

In the letter, Jenrick maintains there was no bias in his decision-making and tried to blame Tower Hamlets Council for the situation noting they had delayed the decision despite having ample time.

Jenrick also defended his actions saying he had made the decision a week before the plan was to be introduced, but a cache of emails showed that his team were still discussing possible amendments to the plan days later.

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