Don’t Do As I Do – Do As I Say!

From a correspondent:

Recently, there appears to have been a great deal of hypocrisy embroiled within some national and local circles, with displays of two-facedness, insincerity and deception exhibited by those that we would generally be looking to for reliable clear guidance, direction and advice.

In March this year a senior advisor and political strategist to Boris Johnson became involved in what is now termed ‘The Dominic Cummings Scandal’ by breaching the Government’s lockdown rules and travelling to Durham, when freedom of movement in the UK was restricted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The press conference in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street set up to explain his conduct was ‘toe curling’ and this crisis saw a sharp fall in support for the Government and a decline in unity within the country to adhere to the strict lockdown regulations imposed.

The British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson OBE, who specialises in the spread of infectious diseases, resigned in May, after it emerged that a woman had been visiting his house in contravention of lockdown rules!

Catherine Calderwood, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, also resigned in April after visiting her holiday house – but more recently, in September, Scottish MP Margaret Ferrier breached Coronavirus rules by travelling after developing Covid-19 symptoms but refuses to resign, excusing her behaviour by claiming ‘she wanted to represent her constituents’ (this could have been done virtually) and claiming Coronavirus made her ‘act out of character’!

Deviating from the Coronavirus theme is the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – the Right Honourable MP for Newark, Robert Jenrick, who was involved in controversy when he overruled the Planning Inspectorate and approved a £1 billion luxury housing development for a Conservative party donor, which would have saved the donor’s company £50 million in tax! Even with calls for Jenrick’s resignation for his use of public office for political favours – he still appears regularly on the media explaining to us all how we should be behaving! 

Around 2018 and now much closer to home in East Devon, the residents of Clyst St Mary were made aware of the directives and assertions from the then Chief Executive of Aviva, Mark Wilson, who had written in The Telegraph in 2014 that there should be a halt on building on defenceless flood plains, voicing his personal mantra of ‘Let’s be crystal clear: no defences, no development.’ He acknowledged that flooding is one of the most traumatic events that both families and businesses could face.

Having suffered extensive flooding in the village from repeated severe storms, such strong, influential principles from the Aviva ex-CEO on flood defences were applauded at that time by local residents, in the hope that he had some authoritative ‘sway’ on the substantial development proposals by his company, Aviva, for residential, workplace and community areas at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary that lay within flood zones!

Fast forward to 2020 and Burrington Estates have now acquired Winslade Park and submitted even greater development proposals for live, work and leisure uses and although some of the plans are supported, many of their proposals are contrary to national and local planning policies. This is somewhat surprising when the Burrington team advertise themselves as experienced property professionals with an amazing track record in building beautifully designed, high specification new homes and properties that harmonise with their location. Burrington Estates’ Chairman, Peter Andrew, has a wealth of industry experience and in–depth understanding, even being awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to construction. He was, in fact, one of the four practitioners who helped draft the National Planning Policy Framework in the past, so one would assume that he and his associates at Burringtons are aware of the protection given against inappropriate development by national and local planning policies?

By claiming to have higher standards than is actually the case in reality, results in a considerable lack of public trust and this was experienced first-hand when Burringtons significantly altered the Winslade Park development proposals from the Public Consultation to the submission of a planning application to EDDC – for example by substituting 14 houses with an incongruous three-storey 59 apartment block (which has now been amended to two/three storey 40-apartment blocks) in close proximity opposite high- graded historic buildings and overlooking existing residents’ properties! The indicative illustrations provided continue to resemble cell blocks or container shipping units and are completely ‘at odds’ with best design practices for development in a rural village community!

Burrington Estates now claim that the entire, vast masterplan will fail and not be financially viable without building the residential elements on green fields and incorporating incongruous three-storey apartment block structures -but why on earth would Burringtons purchase this complicated site, having had a full awareness of the planning history and environmental limitations, if they were not confident of making a profit? Indeed, JLL have consulted in the past for Aviva and now for Burringtons on Winslade Park and they have a wealth of knowledge on real estate and investment management which should have flagged-up the benefits and pitfalls of this site.

As an illustrative example – Would the average person purchase a property that they couldn’t afford, without building a block of apartments or houses in the garden, with the expectation of receiving planning permission for the garden development to enable them to achieve financially viability? Unquestionably No! 

Are Burringtons’ assertions and pronouncements on viability credible or are we again being hoodwinked by those who promote a ‘don’t do as I do – do as I say’ philosophy?

The ‘rules are there to be broken’ pathway, being trodden by some individuals for their own personal gain, has wide-reaching detrimental knock-on effects for so many others in our society.