Jenrick yesterday published copies of correspondence relating to his decision to approve plans for the scheme in east London, which he has since accepted was unlawful due to "apparent bias".
Jenrick had consciously made the decision before the London Borough of Tower Hamlets adopted a community infrastructure levy charging schedule that would have required Desmond to make a payment of about £40 million. The housing secretary said that he did this to ensure the scheme was not hit by viability issues and delays. Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservative party in the weeks after his scheme was approved.
Yesterday, as well as publishing his correspondance, Jenrick wrote to the House of Commons housing, communities and local government select committee to answer their questions about the issue.
In his note, the housing secretary reveals he has asked Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government civil servants to review advice that ministers and officials receive on matters of planning propriety.
He said: "I have also asked my department to review the extant Planning Propriety Guidance to see how there can be clearer, practical guidance to ministers and civil servants. This will help ensure the highest standards of conduct in public life, whilst recognising the need for interested parties – including local Members of Parliament – to be able to make representations on the public interest".
Jenrick adds that he regrets giving publisher and developer Richard Desmond his phone number a couple of months before he was due to decide on the latter’s application for the Westferry Printworks scheme.
In his note, he says: "I do appreciate the strong argument that things could and should have been handled in a different manner. On reflection, I would not have exchanged numbers given the live planning matter, but at the time I considered the matter closed as I have clearly told Mr Desmond I could not and would not discuss it".
Speaking at today's National Planning Summit, planning and housing minister Christopher Pincher confirmed that neither he nor Jenrick would be involved in re-considering the Westferry development.
The correspondence also reveals:
- Jenrick raised the the Westferry Printworks case with officials two days after meeting the scheme’s developer
- One day after the dinner, the housing secretary arranged a further meeting with Desmond
- Jenrick took his decision against the advice of his own planning experts
- Desmond texted Jenrick about the scheme several times in the weeks before decision