Police 'assessing allegation' in relation to Jenrick's 'unlawful' Docklands consent

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that it is assessing an "allegation" made in relation to the housing secretary's recently-overturned consent for a 1,500-home scheme in London's Docklands.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)

In January, the secretary of state permitted plans for a 1,524-home application by Westferry Developments, an offshoot of the Daily Express' former parent company Northern & Shell, on appeal, even though his inspector David Prentis had recommended refusal.

The decision was challenged by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the local planning authority, supported by the Greater London Authority. The secretary of state last month consented to judgment in the case.

According to a consent order issued by the High Court, Jenrick admitted that his decision letter was deliberately issued on 14 January 2020, the day before Tower Hamlets Council was due to adopt its community infrastructure levy (CIL) charging schedule .

Under the new CIL schedule, Tower Hamlets estimated that the developer would have had to pay up to £50 million more to the council.

Jenrick accepted in the order that the timing of the letter meant that the decision letter was "unlawful by reason of apparent bias".

On May 27, Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis tweeted: "I have asked the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Cabinet Secretary whether they consider a breach of the law & the Ministerial Code has taken place" in relation to the matter.

Yesterday, the Met Police confirmed that it had "received an allegation on Wednesday, 27 May" and that "the details of this are currently being assessed by officers from the Special Enquiry Team".

It is unclear if this relates to Lord Adonis' tweet.

Contacted by Planning today, a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "While we reject the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be redetermined."

He said that the ministry had "nothing further to add".

Last week, the Labour Party called for an investigation into the matter. In a letter to Cabinet chief secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Labour's shadow housing and planning minister Mike Amesbury, called for a full investigation by the Cabinet Office.

He wrote: "The consequence of Mr Jenrick's decision was to save a developer a very great amount of money and, in the light of conceding the judicial review claim give rise to serious questions which require answers."

Amesbury asked for details on contacts between Jenrick or officials in his department and the developer or their representatives regarding the application and, specifically the CIL liabilities.

At the weekend, The Mail on Sunday reported that Jenrick had attended a Conservative Party fundraising dinner with Northern and Shell owner Richard Desmond, who the newspaper said had raised the topic of the application with him.

According to a statement submitted by Jenrick's spokesperson to the newspaper, the secretary of state told Desmond at the dinner that discussing the application would be inappropriate.

The paper quoted the spokesperson saying: "They were put on the same table, although Mr Jenrick was not aware of this prior to arriving at the venue.

"The developers did raise their application, but Mr Jenrick informed them that it would not be appropriate for them to discuss the matter with him, or for him to pass comment on it."

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