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Jenrick admits decision on Isle of Dogs scheme was 'unlawful'

Words: Huw Morris
Robert Jenrick / Chris McAndrew

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has accepted that he approved a £1 billion housing development in east London unlawfully.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority had challenged the approval of plans to build 1,524 homes at the former Westferry Printworks on the Isle of Dogs.

Jenrick approved the scheme in January, the day before community infrastructure levy charges placed on developments were increased. A planning inspector had earlier recommended its rejection.

The timing of the decision meant former Conservative Party donor Richard Desmond avoided paying between £30 million and £50 million, according to Tower Hamlets. The council started legal action in March alleging that the timing of the decision appeared to show bias in deciding to allow the appeal.

The council asked the High Court to order the government to disclose documents that it argued would show the secretary of state was influenced by a desire to help the developer save money by avoiding the revised charges.

Jenrick has now accepted his decision was unlawful and allowed the planning permission to be quashed.

“We may never know what emails and memos the secretary of state received before making his decision and what influence they had, but his reluctance to disclose them speaks volumes,” said Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs. “In siding with the developer, he went against not only the planning inspector but also the council’s Strategic Development Committee and the residents whose lives would be directly impacted by this scheme.

Image credit | Chris McAndrew