Ministers should keep their hands off planning decisions | Elise Brewerton

Boring council-speak alert here. The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a charge local authorities can place on developers to ensure money goes back into the community for things like highways, to build GP surgeries and play areas, once a development is built.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 5:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 5:36 pm
Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick

CIL can have a hugely positive impact upon communities if the money is spent wisely. But it can add a lot to the cost of development so, more often than not, developers do all they can to keep CIL down.

Over in East London, Tower Hamlets Council refused plans by a company owned by media mogul Richard Desmond to build 1,524 homes on the site of a former printworks.

That decision was backed by the government’s planning inspector.

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However, MP Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, stepped in and overruled both the council and planning inspector.

Planning permission was granted the day before the council adopted changes to its CIL levels, which would have meant the developer had to pay up to £50m more to the council. If the development had to go ahead, can you imagine the difference £50m would have made to the community? How could Mr Jenrick, in good conscience, have done that?

It has now emerged that he met Mr Desmond at a Conservative fundraiser and was shown a video of the site, weeks before he made his decision.

After the development was green-lighted Desmond made a donation of £12,000 to the Conservative Party.

Following a legal challenge by Tower Hamlets, the government has conceded Mr Jenrick’s actions were unlawful, due to ‘apparent bias’.

What does this matter to us? Because bad housing developments can have a detrimental effect on the people living in them. If they are planned well, with green space, wide pavements, and well-proportioned, attractive homes, they can be life-enhancing. The developer was trying to squeeze 1,500 homes on a site suitable for only 700. It is terrifying that one minister can have so much power over decisions that impact so many.

Brave detective’s tea making skills called into question

There was one part of The Salisbury Poisonings – the BBC adaption of the Russian Novichok poisoning in the small Wiltshire city – that left me cowering behind the sofa.

DS Nick Bailey, played brilliantly by Rafe Spall, switches the kettle on to make his wife a cuppa, and then promptly puts the milk in first.

I could hardly believe my eyes.

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and what happened in 2018 was far-fetched enough. But this?

Within minutes of the broadcast, DS Bailey’s wife Sarah had taken to social media to assure viewers her husband would never go milk first when making a brew. Phew.

Meghan’s fairytale ending has become anything but…

No matter how much the Duchess of Sussex loves her husband, there must be a part of her that wishes she’d never clapped eyes on him.

At the beginning, life with Harry must have seemed like a fairytale – but the reality has proved to be more of a nightmare.

Meghan has lost her father, and now her best friend. Harry has moved thousands of miles to get away from his family and the British press.

They are in the middle of a costly court case with the Mail on Sunday, and a ‘tell-all’ book about them has been released by Lady Colin Campbell, scrutinising them further.

If it weren’t for Archie I’m sure she would rather just be plain old Meg Markle.