Westferry Printworks - detail of requested investigations by sir Mark Sedwill & Clive betts MP + a summary
I have sent two letters on the 15th June to:
Sir Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary repeating my 3rd June request for an investigation, letter here and below
Mr Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, detailing why his Commitee at Parliament should investigate this, letter here and below, my previous lettter to him can be found in an earlier post
Finally a 12 page summary of the key issues, background and history, here and below. I posted drafts of these documents on the 14th June but I made a few minor tweeks to all of them.
Westferry Printworks combines political scandal (fundraising dinners with a developer 5 weeks in advance of granting their scheme planning permission plus party political donations), concerns over corruption in the absence of any other information to explain why the Minister would financially benefit a developer to such an extent but also fundamental issues about how Ministers make planning decisions in secret. The involvement of the Prime Minister in the earlier smaller planning application on this site in 2016 adds further political interest although in my opinion the decision made by Sir Ed Lister then was more transparent and logical than the 2020 decision.
The Minister Robert Jenrick deliberately timed a decision to benefit a developer by around £40 million. In doing so he went against the wishes of his own Planning Inspector, the local Council, and the Greater London Authority. He also accepted the developer dropping the affordable housing from 35% down to 21%. Last August two separate planning experts judged the scheme could deliver more affordable housing and pay the £40 million for new infrastructure which the Isle of Dogs desperately needs. He thought differently, that the development could afford neither, why? I do not believe direct corruption took place, neither party was that dumb (I assume) but what happened feeds the narrative of corruption and therefore full disclosure is required.
When first challenged with a judicial review of his decision in February 2020 he claimed Tower Hamlets Council was on a fishing expedition but then weeks later changes his mind and accepts his decision ‘was unlawful by reason of apparent bias and should be quashed’.
A related mystery is why Tower Hamlets Council twice on this site failed to make a decision within the statutory time period, in 2018 they missed the deadline by six months. That appears to have been a conscious decision.
The Cabinet Office and the House of Commons Select Committee now need to investigate. The Police won’t investigate further without more information. The Minister needs to release all of the relevant documents and declare other meetings or donations. I believe that there is still something missing from this story to explain why he made the decision that he did which is why I resigned from the Conservative Party in February. Having spent years investigating alleged corruption in Tower Hamlets having to investigate a dodgy decision by a senior Minister in my own party was too much.