- Boris Johnson met three times with a billionaire property developer in the months before he approved a controversial housing scheme in London, according to a report.
- Three weeks after their last meeting, Johnson’s deputy Edward Lister approved a planning application for Desmond to build 722 sites in a site in East London, despite objections from the local council, the Times of London report said.
- A spokesman for the prime minister told the Times that the application was considered properly in 2016 and added: ‘Planning officers recommended approval of the scheme.’
- The current Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick was also forced to withdraw approval for an even bigger version of the scheme this year, after admitting ‘apparent bias’ in the timing of his approval of the development, which would have saved Desmond up to £50 million.
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Boris Johnson met three times with a billionaire property developer months before he approved one of his major controversial housing schemes in London, despite objections to the development from the local authority.
Johnson — who was then the mayor of London — met Richard Desmond, a property tycoon and newspaper owner, three times in 2015 and 2016, the Times of London newspaper reported.
The first meeting took place at the luxury Corinthia Hotel in central London in September 2015, while the second took place over lunch later that month. They met for a final time in January 2016, the report said.
Three weeks after their last meeting, Johnson’s deputy Edward Lister approved a planning application for Desmond to build 722 sites in a site in East London, despite objections from the local council, the Times reported.
A spokesman for the prime minister told the Times that the application was considered properly in 2016 and added: “Planning officers recommended approval of the scheme.”
Desmond’s company then submitted a second application to nearly double the number of homes in the development to 1,524, a scheme which was approved by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick earlier this year in controversial circumstances.
Jenrick was forced to reverse the decision when it emerged he had approved the scheme just one day before the local council was due to vote on a community charge that would have cost Desmond up to £50 million.
Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservatives on January 28, shortly after Jenrick approved the scheme. He had previously been a major donor to UKIP.
The housing secretary, who is now facing calls for an inquiry into his behaviour, admitted an “apparent bias” in the timing of the scheme but denied any “actual bias.”
Chris Pincher, a junior minister, also this week admitted that Desmond had brought up the subject when he sat next to Jenrick at a Conservative Party fundraiser in November last year.
Pincher, speaking on Thursday, said Jenrick had made it “absolutely clear” he could not discuss the project with Desmond at the dinner.
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The opposition Labour party called on the Conservatives to return Desmond’s donation.
“The Conservatives have broken confidence in the planning system,” Steve Reed, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said.
“They can only mend it by returning the donation to Mr Desmond and by Robert Jenrick immediately publishing
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