Boris Johnson met with controversial property developer three times before approving housing scheme

Prime minister Boris Johnson and property developer Richard Desmond (R) who has been at the centre o

Prime minister Boris Johnson and property developer Richard Desmond (R) who has been at the centre of an ongoing political controversy; Archant, PA - Credit: Archant

Boris Johnson met with a developer at the centre of a new political controversy three times while mayor of London before approving his planning application for a London build.

Whilst mayor Johnson met the property tycoon, Richard Desmond, on several occasions before giving his plans to build 722 sites the go-ahead, the Times reports.

The newspaper said the duo rendezvoused at the Corinthia Hotel in central London in September 2015 and met again a month later for lunch.

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However, it was not until three weeks after their third and final gathering in January 2016 that Johnson's deputy, Edward Lister, approved Desmond's planning application for a building in East London, despite objections from the local council.

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Desmond then submitted a second application to double the size of the development, which housing minister Robert Jenrick approved earlier this year.

Jenrick has since reversed the decision and admitted during a High Court hearing that he may have acted 'unlawfully' to grant the build.

The minister made his decision one day before a council rate tax hike that would have cost the developer £40 million.

Addressing Johnson's involvement in the build, a government spokesperson said the application had been reviewed in 2016 and that 'planning officers recommended approval of the scheme.'

MORE: Minister says he has 'no idea' how Robert Jenrick ended up sat next to property developers at fundraiser

Desmond met Jenrick during a fundraising dinner last year where it is claimed the pair discussed his East London development, something that the government denies.

He was previously a UKIP donor but donated £12,000 to the Tories days after the meeting.

Labour has called for the Tories to return the contribution. 'The Conservatives have broken confidence in the planning system,' Steve Reed, shadow minister communities said.

'They can only mend it by returning the donation to Mr Desmond and by Robert Jenrick immediately publishing all correspondence with Richard Desmond so the public can see the true reasons for his decision.'

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