Pincher admits he 'misspoke' after claiming yet-to-be-decided bell foundry scheme had been refused

Housing minister Christopher Pincher has admitted that he "misspoke" when he mistakenly told MPs that a yet-to-be-decided application to redevelop a historic bell foundry in east London had been refused by the secretary of state.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher (pic: Getty)
Housing minister Christopher Pincher (pic: Getty)

During a debate in the House of Commons earlier this month on the housing secretary's controversial Westferry Printworks decision, housing and planning minister Christopher Pincher mistakenly told MPs that Jenrick had refused a called-in application to redevelop the Grade II-listed Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The mixed-use scheme would see the site of the historic foundry redeveloped to provide a new hotel, plus workshops and a café.

In fact, the application had only been called in by Jenrick in January and the public inquiry into the scheme is not due to be held until October.

Pincher compounded his error by stating that the scheme would mean the foundry's "demolition", when in fact only an unlisted building at the rear of the historic site would be knocked down.

He further incorrectly said the application had been "made by" the local authority.

Now, Pincher has written a letter to Alan Brown, the Scottish Nationalist Party MP whose question he had been responding to in the Commons, correcting his errors.

The letter said the minister had "referred to a planning application that I should have said has been made to, rather than made by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets".

It added: "I misspoke when I said that the application had been refused by my colleague the secretary of state."

It also confirmed that the "scheme proposes some alterations to a listed building, together with other works such as the demolition of a nearby unlisted building".

Last week, Labour peer Andrew Adonis accused Pincher of "sheer incompetence" and "a very serious breach of the ministerial code" over the matter.

Commenting on the case last week, Simon Ricketts, a prominent planning solicitor and partner at planning law firm Town Legal, told Planning: “In these circumstances, even if there were to be some formal retraction by the minister of what he said, this would certainly raise legal issues as to whether in reality the decision had been predetermined.”

An MHCLG spokesman said: “Each planning application is taken on its own merits and the secretary of state has called in this case for his own determination. The case will now be considered at a public inquiry, after which a decision will be made in due course.”

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