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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Police ‘assess’ Housing Secretary’s planning row as PM steers clear

The Metropolitan Police says it’s “assessing” the controversial surrounding the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, and a planning decision over which he admits bias.

Yesterday the subject of the £1 billion Westferry Printworks development row came up at Prime Minister’s Questions, but Boris Johnson informed the Commons that he had had no conversations whatsoever with Jenrick or others about the issue.

Last week, in a decision which was made during the Dominic Cummings affair and which received little publicity at the time, Jenrick admitted acting unlawfully in a legal battle with the Tower Hamlets council in London.

The controversy surrounds a £1 billion scheme on a former print works site in east London for 1,524 homes as well as shops, bars and offices; the approval was submitted by former newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond.

In January, plans to build 1,524 homes on the site were approved by Jenrick despite a planning inspector recommending against granting permission; in March, Tower Hamlets council initiated legal action against Jenrick, alleging that the timing of the decision appeared to show bias in deciding to allow the appeal.

The decision was made just one day before the council adopted planning rule changes which would have meant that Desmond would have had to pay between £30m and £50m more to the council.

In recent days it has been revealed that Desmond had lobbied Jenrick at a Conservative Party fund-raising event prior to the Housing Secretary’s decision. The Huffington Post news website says the Met Police are now “assessing” an allegation about Jenrick’s involvement.

The subject came up at yesterday’s PMQs in the House of Commons, with Boris Johnson being asked if he had spoken with any of the key individuals involved in the controversy. The Prime Minister said emphatically that he had had no such conversations with any of the parties involved.

You can see our more detailed report of the government’s admission of Jenrick’s bias in the matter in this story here.

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