Boris Johnson has been accused of hypocrisy after he objected to a scheme for 514 homes in his constituency claiming it was “inappropriate” and “out of character” for the area.
George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk
In letters obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information request, Mr Johnson said that the plans for houses in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat constituted “overdevelopment”.
Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, has now intervened in the case and is blocking planning permission from being granted to the scheme, which includes 179 affordable homes.
Boris Johnson has been under pressure to resist an application by Inland Homes to build on the Master Brewer site
Earlier this year the prime minister unveiled radical reforms to overhaul the planning system and limit people’s ability to object to individual applications. He recently decried the “cumbersome planning procedures” that prevented young people from getting on the housing ladder and attacked a culture of nimbyism in a speech over the summer where he demanded that developers “build, build, build”.
Mr Johnson’s majority of 7,210 in his west London constituency is the smallest of any prime minister in recent times. He faces pressure from a number of residents’ groups to oppose the application by developers Inland Homes to build on the Master Brewer site.
In September Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, approved the plans but Mr Jenrick overruled the decision and directed officials to issue a holding order.
Mr Johnson wrote to Hillingdon council’s head of planning in February last year: “While I welcome additional appropriate housing in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, having considered the plans this application appears to be an overdevelopment for the location with too high a density proposed.”
He added: “A 12-storey tower block in amongst this development is wholly out of character for the locality.” He said that he and residents were worried that the development lacked sufficient parking. He urged planners to take account of the extra pressure on services, including schools and doctors, “to ensure Hillingdon welcomes sustainable developments and inappropriate applications such as this are refused”.
Mr Johnson had also written to the leader of Hillingdon council that the homes lacked “aesthetic quality”.
Stephen Wicks, chief executive of Inland Homes, said that the prime minister, was putting politics over planning.
“The hypocrisy of all this is that Boris is on one hand saying ‘build, build, build’ but on the other hand he’s quietly nobbling councillors behind the scenes,” he said. “It’s difficult to demonstrate it but I’m pretty certain Boris will have had a word with Robert Jenrick and said ‘Look, this one’s a bit difficult for me, the locals don’t like it, so can you just quietly issue a holding order’.”
A government spokesman said that officials in Mr Jenrick’s department had issued the holding direction and denied that the housing secretary had had any involvement.
He added: “The government has set out its vision for a planning system that delivers high-quality, sustainable homes and puts local community agreement at the centre of proposals.”