Johnson has ‘full confidence’ in Jenrick over Westferry planning row

Boris Johnson has full confidence in his Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick after further revelations about the controversial Westferry Printworks planning decision.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson still had confidence in the Cabinet minister but sought to distance the Prime Minister from the row.

Tory donor Richard Desmond said he showed Mr Jenrick a promotional video of his east London development before the Communities Secretary approved the planning application.

Coronavirus – Tue Jun 9, 2020
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The media mogul told the Sunday Times that Mr Jenrick watched the video for “three or four minutes” at a Conservative Party fundraiser at the Savoy Hotel.

Mr Jenrick would later grant permission for the development of a 1,500-flat scheme the day before a new council community levy would have cost Mr Desmond’s company an extra £40 million.

The redevelopment, said to be worth £1 billion, was approved in January by Mr Jenrick against the recommendation of a planning inspector.

The decision was reversed after legal action by Tower Hamlets Council and Mr Jenrick accepted his decision was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias”.

Two weeks after the minister stepped in to approve the scheme, Electoral Commission records show that Mr Desmond personally gave £12,000 to the Conservatives.

Westferry Printworks Redevelopment Jenrick
A view of the Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs, east London (Yui Mok/PA)

Asked whether No 10 knew Mr Jenrick had watched the promotional video during a fundraising dinner, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What the Communities Secretary has said is that he is confident that all the rules were followed in taking the decision and he has rejected the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision.”

The spokesman insisted no one from No 10 had been involved in the process.

“No one in No 10 has discussed this with Mr Desmond or the applicant,” the spokesman said.

“No 10 has no involvement with the Secretary of State’s appeal decision.”

Mr Desmond, who used to own the Express and Star newspapers, told the Sunday Times: “What I did was I showed him the video,” adding that the minister viewed it for about “three or four minutes” at the November fundraiser.

According to Mr Desmond, Mr Jenrick replied: “I’m sorry Richard. I can’t discuss it.”

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been sent papers relating to the process but Downing Street insisted he was not investigating what happened.

The mandarin had been given information in order to reply to MPs who had raised concerns about the process, the spokesman added.

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