Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP has removed conditions aimed at tackling the climate crisis in a decision on a planning appeal in Swale in Kent, against the recommendations from the Planning Inspectorate.
Lib Dem Group Leader at Swale Borough Council, Cllr Ben J Martin said “Once again the Conservative Secretary of State has sided with developers that pay into his party’s coffers rather than doing the right thing to fight climate change."
Jenrick called in the decision following an appeal from Quinn Estates following Swale Borough Council's decision to refuse planning permission for 675 new dwellings at Wises Lane in Borden near Sittingbourne, Kent.
Property developer Mark Quinn made major donations to the Conservatives directly before and after Jenrick chose to take responsibility for deciding on Quinn’s bid to build 675 houses in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Shortly before Jenrick became involved in the decision, the developer, Quinn Estates, gave £11,000 to the Conservatives. Less than three weeks later, the firm donated a further £26,500 to the party.
Mark Quinn is a Canterbury-based property developer who has given generously to the Conservative party, both in his own name and through companies that he controls.
Quinn Estates, and the company’s owner Mark Quinn, has donated around £140,000 to the Conservatives’ central party and Tory MPs across the southeast of England in recent years, including almost £10,000 to Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing and £5,500 to Folkestone MP Damian Collins. More details can be found in an article by Open Democracy found here.
In a report to Swale’s Planning Committee to be held on August 19th 2021 officers state
“The appeal decision highlights the current dilemma relating to climate change. As Members will know, the Council pursued a case that the development should meet much higher standards to reduce carbon emissions – particularly given the likely long buildout timescale for a development of this size. It employed an external consultant to advise on the impending need to address climate change on a wide-ranging scale. The Council’s case was largely on the basis that the current climate change emergency needs addressing now, and that policy is simply too slow to catch up with this. The appellants position was that they had simply done what current policy requires (i.e. a minor increase above current building regulations requirements). The Planning Inspector gave weight to the Council’s emergency climate change declaration, and the recognition at local, national and international level that the need to act on climate change is urgent. On this basis he recommended that the Council’s conditions should be imposed to require dwellings to be built to achieve at least a 50% reduction in carbon emissions (rising to 100% after 2028).
However, the Secretary of State disagreed with the Inspector’s recommendation and deleted these conditions from the decision. He agreed with the appellants position that the development complies with current policy and that it is not possible or desirable to predict what policies may apply in the future and impose them now. He concluded that the Council’s guidance had not been through public examination as planning policy, and that the conditions were not reasonable or necessary.” The full report to the planning committee can be read here.
Cllr Ben J Martin, Lib Dem Group Leader at Swale Borough Council said “Once again the Conservative Secretary of State has sided with developers that pay into his party’s coffers rather than doing the right thing to fight climate change. It is of course disappointing for a council to lose a planning appeal, but to have conditions which we feel are reasonable and necessary in the fight against climate change struck out by the Secretary of State when the Planning Inspectorate supports the council’s view is shameful.”
Cllr Martin continued, “The Conservative central government has failed time and again to get to grips with the climate crisis, and appears to be more intent on undoing the good work of local councils than on meeting their own targets for reducing carbon emissions and planting trees.”