Boris Johnson met with billionaire developer three times before approving his housing scheme

Boris Johnson met three times with a billionaire property developer months before he approved one of his major controversial housing schemes in London, despite objections to the development from the local authority.

Thomas Colson www.businessinsider.com

Boris Johnson met three times with a billionaire property developer in the months before he approved a controversial housing scheme in London, according to a report.

  • Three weeks after their last meeting, Johnson’s deputy Edward Lister approved a planning application for Desmond to build 722 sites in a site in East London, despite objections from the local council, the Times of London report said.
  • A spokesman for the prime minister told the Times that the application was considered properly in 2016 and added: ‘Planning officers recommended approval of the scheme.’
  • The current Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was also forced to withdraw approval for an even bigger version of the scheme this year, after admitting ‘apparent bias’ in the timing of his approval of the development, which would have saved Desmond up to £50 million.

Boris Johnson met three times with a billionaire property developer months before he approved one of his major controversial housing schemes in London, despite objections to the development from the local authority.

Johnson — who was then the mayor of London — met Richard Desmond, a property tycoon and newspaper owner, three times in 2015 and 2016, the Times of London newspaper reported.

The first meeting took place at the luxury Corinthia Hotel in central London in September 2015, while the second took place over lunch later that month. They met for a final time in January 2016, the report said.

Three weeks after their last meeting, Johnson’s deputy Edward Lister approved a planning application for Desmond to build 722 sites in a site in East London, despite objections from the local council, the Times reported.

A spokesman for the prime minister told the Times that the application was considered properly in 2016 and added: “Planning officers recommended approval of the scheme.”

Desmond’s company then submitted a second application to nearly double the number of homes in the development to 1,524, a scheme which was approved by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick earlier this year in controversial circumstances.

Jenrick was forced to reverse the decision when it emerged he had approved the scheme just one day before the local council was due to vote on a community charge that would have cost Desmond up to £50 million.

Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservatives on January 28, shortly after Jenrick approved the scheme. He had previously been a major donor to UKIP.

The housing secretary, who is now facing calls for an inquiry into his behaviour, admitted an “apparent bias” in the timing of the scheme but denied any “actual bias.”

Chris Pincher, a junior minister, also this week admitted that Desmond had brought up the subject when he sat next to Jenrick at a Conservative Party fundraiser in November last year.

Pincher, speaking on Thursday, said Jenrick had made it “absolutely clear” he could not discuss the project with Desmond at the dinner.

The opposition Labour party called on the Conservatives to return Desmond’s donation.

“The Conservatives have broken confidence in the planning system,” Steve Reed, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said.

“They can only mend it by returning the donation to Mr Desmond and by Robert Jenrick immediately publishing all correspondence with Richard Desmond so the public can see the true reasons for his decision.”

2 thoughts on “Boris Johnson met with billionaire developer three times before approving his housing scheme

  1. Revelations such as this come as no surprise to the people of East Devon.

    Whats brushed under the carpet at Government level has been swept in piles under the floor coverings at Knowle, Sidmouth by Tory administrations and their ‘accomplices’ over the years. In private meetings applicants have been able to have the appeal procedure ‘explained’ to them.
    EDDC has, in fact, made applications ‘to itself’ and when elected councillors on the committee have shown resistance, those ‘advising’ them have ‘warned’ that appeal may take place!
    Applied to itself, didn’t like the likely result, threatened to take itself to appeal. Interesting.

    Now, Johnson, Jenrick and Cummings intend to have a new panel of experts to reform planning law and to remove planning decisions from local councils and our elected representatives.
    This will be an absolute outrage, and make way for even more manipulation by those with vested interests.

    Given what we now know about the selfishness and assumed ‘entitlement’ of each of those three individuals we have to wonder what hope there is for seeing evidence of the democratic process in planning in the future, even under the refreshingly transparent and optimistic new administration at East Devon – or anywhere else for that matter.

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  2. Regardless of whether favours were or were not reciprocated, this has the appearance of corruption.

    The Mayor of London and a Minister both stand to gain both from party or personal political donations and from potentially favourable coverage in Desmond’s newspapers. And we know just how much Boris Johnson and the government rely on favourable, and even more importantly non-critical, media coverage, and based on existing examples that are in the public domain it seems to me to be highly likely that they would do anything to try to keep Desmond’s newspapers on-side.

    For democracy to genuinely exist, we need transparency. What was said at these private meetings between Johnson / Jenrick and Desmond? What correspondence was exchanged? Whilst I would expect that anything inappropriate was said verbally in order that evidence of inappropriate doesn’t later embarrass them, however indiscretion is not that uncommon from politicians, so let’s see the correspondence and confirm for ourselves that at least the written communications are beyond reproach.

    Unfortunately there will always be opportunities for private meetings, where favours can be inappropriate exchanged. And THAT is why the Nolan Principles are a vital plank of democracy and why it is ESSENTIAL that politicians at all levels not only follow them but actively promote them in everything they do:

    1.1 Selflessness
    Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

    1.2 Integrity
    Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

    1.3 Objectivity
    Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

    1.4 Accountability
    Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

    1.5 Openness
    Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

    1.6 Honesty
    Holders of public office should be truthful.

    1.7 Leadership
    Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

    I NOW ASK YOU TO REVIEW WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT BORIS JOHNSON – on Brexit, Pandemic, etc. – AND DECIDE JUST HOW MANY OF THESE PRINCIPLES HE HAS UPHELD AND HOW MANY HE HAS BROKEN??

    EQUALLY, YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT PREVIOUS PRIME MINISTERS, and decide just how many of these principles they upheld??

    OR TO CONSIDER THE LOCAL EDDC LEADERSHIP FOR THE LAST DECADE OR TWO, and decide just how many of these principles they upheld?

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