Westferry Printworks Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 1:40 pm, 24th June 2020

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Upon reviewing the advice on Westferry, including the inspector’s recommendation, I requested further advice on key questions—for example, asking the Department to source images to understand the potential impact of the scheme on historic Greenwich. Having reviewed all the evidence and taken a further in-depth meeting with senior officials to discuss the case in the first week in January, I determined to allow the appeal and grant planning permission. As I have set out in the letter to the Select Committee Chair, in coming to the decision I considered the significant contribution of housing in a part of the country that is particularly unaffordable, including almost 300 affordable homes, as well as the significant economic benefits from the development, including the hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs that it would have created. The House should remember that we are talking about a large brownfield site in a part of London that already has a high number of tall buildings, so in many respects it is exactly the kind of location where we should be building homes if we are serious about tackling London’s housing needs.

On 14 January, my full rationale was published in the usual way, through the decision letter, with the full inspector’s report. In this case, Tower Hamlets and the Mayor of London challenged the decision in court, as happens in many cases. The irony, of course, is that, as we have already discussed, they could have made the decision themselves but chose not to do so.

On 21 May 2020, my Department proposed that the decision be quashed and redetermined by another Minister in the usual way. The other parties to the matter—Tower Hamlets Council, the Mayor of London and the developer—agreed and the court duly consented. My rationale was that although there was no actual bias whatsoever in the decision making for the application, inferences, even of the appearance of bias, could harm the integrity of the planning system. I did not want that to happen.