Boris Johnson denies involvement in planning row with influential Tory donor

PUBLISHED: 12:27 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:41 15 June 2020

Boris Johnson with property tycoon Richard Desmond (R); Archant, Paul Bennett

Boris Johnson with property tycoon Richard Desmond (R); Archant, Paul Bennett

Archant

Boris Johnson has denied any involvement in a controversial property development his administration granted while he was mayor of London.

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Johnson said he had “nothing to do” with property tycoon Richard Desmond and his request to build a block of flats in the capital back in 2016.

Desmond applied to build a 722-site development that was approved by Johnson’s deputy at the time, Edward Lister, despite objections from the local council.

It is alleged the duo met three times within six months before the development was given the go-ahead.

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



Questioned on the matter on Sunday, Johnson said: “I can assure you I had absolutely nothing to do with that.

“I meet people the whole time.

“I think the most important thing is to recognise that, here in London and across the whole country, we do need to get development going on.

“This is totally irrelevant to that particular case, I don’t know about that particular case or that particular planning decision.”

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Johnson and housing minister Robert Jenrick have come under fire for their involvement in green-lighting the project, known as the Westferry Printworks development scheme.

Jenrick admitted during a High Court hearing that he may have acted ‘unlawfully’ to approve a request to double the number of apartments on site in January this year.

It is alleged Desmond discussed the matter with the housing minister during a Tory fundraiser in November last year, a claim Jenrick denies.

Jenrick approved the planning application one day before a council tax hike came into force which would have cost Desmond’s business between £30 and £50 million. Desmond then donated £12,000 to the Conservatives days later.

Asked if Jenrick had done the right thing, Johnson said: “As far as I know of course he did.”

Labour has written to the Met Police calling for an investigation.

Shadow communities and local government secretary Steve Reed said: “The prime minister’s extraordinary insistence that Robert Jenrick ‘did the right thing’, even though Mr Jenrick has now admitted his decision was unlawful has done even more damage to trust in the planning system.

“The latest revelations expose the murky relationship between No 10, senior government ministers and lobbyists for billionaire property developers - they warrant urgent investigation by the cabinet secretary into any wrongdoing.”

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