Robert Jenrick the secretary of state for housing who is currently embroiled in a row over a planning decision has some previous experience with planning matters, reports The Times newspaper.
Conservative councillors on Westminster council gave planning permission for an enlargement of Jenrick’s townhouse despite officers recommending the application be refused because it would harm the appearance of the building and the conservation area.
The Times reports that Jenrick’s wife submitted a planning application to build a roof extension on their home in Vincent Square, SW1 in August 2014 two months after he had been elected as a Conservative MP. Two previous applications submitted by Jenrick himself had been refused.
Planning officers were recommending refusal of this third application but Steve Summers a Tory councillor and a neighbour of Jenrick made an official request that a planning committee take the decision and not officers.
In November 2014 the three Conservative members of the planning committee — Richard Beddoe, Robert Rigby and Paul Church — voted to overturn the officers recommendation and approve the scheme. Ruth Bush, the single Labour member of the committee voted against the application.
The Times states that Beddoe, who chaired the planning sub-committee, did not respond to a request for comment, while Rigby and Summers both referred the newspaper to the council’s press department.
A spokesperson for Westminster council told The Times that “planning committees are entitled to reach their own conclusions” weighing up various criteria and on this occasion disagreed with officers. A spokesperson for Jenrick said that a normal planning process was followed.
Paul Church, a former councillor for the West End ward, responded to The Times saying that he had no recollection of why he had voted to approve the scheme. Paul Church is no longer serving on Westminster council.
However, in February 2018 Church went on record to state his unhappiness at Westminster council, saying:
“I tried to stand up for the communities I was elected to represent against the dominance of property developers & their agents, patronage & power in Westminster, but I was bullied, silenced & threatened by their powerful allies. Local government shouldn’t be like this.”
In March 2018 Robert Davis who was chair of planning at Westminster council for 17 years resigned after the Guardian revealed he had received hospitality and gifts hundreds of times including from property developers.
Steve Summers is no longer serving on the council. Richard Beddoe is a serving member for Bryanston and Dorset Square ward. Robert Rigby is a serving member for Regent’s Park ward and is currently chair of three planning committees at Westminster council.