Housing secretary Robert Jenrick mired in new planning row – Owl struggles to keep up!

This one also involves prominent Conservatives and party donors as well! – Owl.

“The housing secretary is facing fresh scrutiny over his use of planning powers after he intervened in a development project backed by prominent Conservatives and party donors.”

Louisa Clarence-Smith, Billy Kenber, George Greenwood www.thetimes.co.uk 
Robert Jenrick has used his ministerial planning powers to recover an appeal by Britain’s largest horse-racing organisation, the Jockey Club, for its development of 318 homes and a hotel at the Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, Surrey.The Jockey Club launched its appeal after Elmbridge borough council rejected the application because it was on green-belt land and would deliver only 20 per cent affordable housing, against its target of between 40 and 50 per cent.

Normally, an appeal would be decided by the government’s planning inspectorate. Mr Jenrick has intervened to recover the appeal and determine it. In a letter to the local authority, seen by The Times, the reason given was that the appeal related to proposals for significant development within the green belt. That means that instead of a government planning inspector writing a decision, the inspector will prepare a report, which will be forwarded to the minister to inform his decision.

The intervention has raised concerns about conflicts of interest given the Jockey Club’s links to senior Conservative figures and donors. The club’s board includes Baroness Harding, the Conservative peer in charge of the government’s Covid-19 tracing app, and Rose Paterson, wife of the Conservative MP Owen Paterson. It also includes Peter Stanley, who donated £5,000 to Matt Hancock’s constituency office in Newmarket, home to the Jockey Club’s headquarters, last year.

Tim Syder, a racehorse owner, gave the Conservative Party £12,500 last November, shortly before he joined the Jockey Club board. Councillor Richard Williams, of Esher residents’ association, said that it was “alarming” that the future of the site was being taken out of local people’s hands. “We should be convincing the inspector of our case, not a minister,” he said.

Mr Jenrick is embroiled in a “cash-for-favours” planning row over his decision to approve a £1 billion development proposed by Richard Desmond, a Tory donor. He overruled a planning inspector and gave the scheme the go-ahead in January, one day before Tower Hamlets council was due to vote on a rule change that would have left Mr Desmond with a £40 million community charge bill. In that case, it emerged yesterday, government lawyers tried to dismiss the council’s legal challenge to Mr Jenrick’s decision weeks before he conceded that he had acted unlawfully.

The Jockey Club has argued that the Sandown scheme constitutes appropriate development. A spokesman said: “We trust that whoever determines the appeal will do so based on planning considerations only. We believe that our application has considerable merit and offers local social and economic benefits.” The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Each planning appeal is taken on its own merits.”

One thought on “Housing secretary Robert Jenrick mired in new planning row – Owl struggles to keep up!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: