The Secretary of State will not have the public confidence that he needs to overhaul the planning system until we have full transparency over his unlawful decision to force through the Westferry development. He gave consent to the scheme on
The developer, Northern & Shell, is owned by the billionaire Conservative party donor Richard Desmond. Mr Desmond sat next to the Secretary of State at a Conservative party fund-raising dinner just two months previously, and he admits that they discussed the scheme. The ministerial code requires Ministers to act with integrity; did the Secretary of State disclose his conversation with Mr Desmond to the Department before he granted permission? As the circumstances clearly raise a question of bias, why did the Secretary of State not immediately recuse himself from taking the decision?
The Secretary of State gave the scheme consent one day before a community infrastructure levy came into force; did he know that he was helping Mr Desmond to dodge a potential £50 million tax bill? Will the Secretary of State now disclose what contact he or his representatives had with the developers about that tax?
By an astonishing coincidence, just two weeks after the Secretary of State took his decision Mr Desmond made a generous donation of £12,000 to the Conservative party. This sequence of events raises grave concerns about cash for favours. If he wants to restore trust, the Secretary of State must immediately publish all documents and all correspondence relating to this decision. The public need reassurance that the integrity of the planning process cannot be auctioned off at Conservative party fund-raising dinners.