Former planning minister under investigation over links to hotel development
PUBLISHED: 14:00 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:17 22 June 2020
A Tory MP and former planning minister is under investigation by parliament after failing to declare links to a luxury hotel development in his constituency.
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Sir Bob Neill failed to inform parliament that he was paid for his involvement in promoting a luxury hotel scheme in Bromley Kent, the Telegraph reports.
Neill wrote to the local council as a consultant of Substantia Group, which assists developers with planning applications, urging them to approve the construction of the Royal Bell hotel redevelopment in Bromley, Kent for a developer client. He then failed to register £50,000 of compensation he received for the work.
The newspaper also reports that Neill successfully lobbied London mayor Sadiq Khan to approve a “state-of-the-art” stadium for football club Cray Wonderers, despite the mayor originally rejecting the design as it apparently broke National Planning Policy Framework guidelines.
After Neill wrote a letter to Khan in 2018 advising he rethink his decision, the application was sent to the local council for approval. Neill did not disclose that he was a consultant for Substantia in the letter, which was managing the application.
In the letter Neill said the proposed development was “in full accordance” with the Framework, which he had introduced as planning minister during the coalition government.
The MP for Bromley and Chislehurst also successfully lobbied for nine other applications.
The parliamentary commissioner for standards has since launched an investigation into the MP’s involvement in securing permission for the Royal Bell hotel.
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Labour, however, has called for the probe to be extended to include all of Neill’s successful dealings.
Mike Amesbury, the shadow minister for housing and planning, said: “It beggars belief that a former planning minister would not be aware of the obvious conflict of interest in this case.”
He added: “These extraordinary new revelations come as housing secretary Robert Jenrick is embroiled in a cash-for-favours scandal to approve the Westferry Development.”
Neil has claimed that “any representations” he made in constituency planning cases were solely related to his role as the local MP and “what I believe to be on the public interest.”
“I have declared all outside interests [in the MPs’ Register of Interests] and acted to ensure that no conflict arises,” he added.
Concerns about the MP were first raised by Dr Alex May, a blogger, last year.
This month, after the standards commissioner had begun her investigation into the hotel deal, Neill amended the entry on his MPs’ Register of Interests to describe himself as a “senior advisor” and refers to Substantia as a “property and business consultancy”.
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