Documents showed that Jenrick granted planning permission for a £1bn property scheme two weeks before the developer donated to the Tories.
Robert Jenrick, a Housing Secretary in the UK is facing calls to resign. The 38-year-old man received accusation after some documents showed that he “insisted” a scheduling decision. About a £1 billion property development should be ran towards so a Tory donor’s company could reduce costs by £45m.
The story behind Robert Jenrick calls to resign
Jenrick asked to sign off the Westferry printworks development in Tower Hamlets in East London the next days. Preventing the community infrastructure levy of £45m to be paid by Richard Desmond’s company.
This story, based on the documents, started on November 18, 2019 when Jenrick sat next to Desmond on a Tory fundraising dinner. Jenrick’s text message said that “Good to spend time with you tonight Richard. See you again soon I hope”. Then Desmond replied: “Thanks Robert I really appreciate your text. Will call your office tomorrow to arrange Very best.”
Two days after, Robert Jenrick emailed from the housing department official on November 20, 2019 and the email was about the new ministerial decision arriving soon and some sensitivity with timing on the final decision.
Then Desmond sent a text message: “Your efficient PA has arranged a meeting for 19 December at 10.30am for meet and site visit. Good news finally the inspectors reports have gone to you today, we appreciate the speed as we don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing! We all want to go with the scheme and the social housing we have proposed and spent a month at the Marxist town hall debating, thanks again, all my best, Richard.”
The advice to avoid meetings
The answer of Jenrick was: “Richard. As Secretary of State it is important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them and so I think it is best that we don’t meet until after the matter has been decided …”
On December 23, Desmond to Jenrick: “Morning Robert How does the advice look? We have to get the approval before January 15 otherwise payment of 45 million pounds to tower hamlets meaning we have to stop and reduce social housing Thanks Robert look forward to speaking soon Best Richard”. No reply from Jenrick.
Thus on January 9, 2020, an email from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government readed: “We have to provide reasoning … as to justify why the SoS [Jenrick] is going against the recc [recommendation] of inspector and officials. That is what we have tried to do. On timing, my understanding is that SoS is/was insistent that the decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL [community investment levy] regime.”
The admission of guilt by Jenrick
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Communities, Housing and Local Government called on Mr Jenrick to quit over the controversy. However, the PM considers the matter “closed”. This statement comes according to the head of the civil service, Sir Mark Sedwill.
Mr Jenrick originally approved the development plan in January 2020, overruling both Tower Hamlets Council and a planning inspector. He admitted that what he did was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias”.