A last-ditch appeal to stop a contentious redevelopment opposite the Golden Lane Estate has raised questions over potential conflicts of interest for some of the City’s top planning chiefs. In May the Corporation’s planning committee gave developer Taylor Wimpey the green light for a 99-flat redevelopment of Bernard Morgan House,...

A last-ditch appeal to stop a contentious redevelopment opposite the Golden Lane Estate has raised questions over potential conflicts of interest for some of the City’s top planning chiefs.

In May the Corporation’s planning committee gave developer Taylor Wimpey the green light for a 99-flat redevelopment of Bernard Morgan House, a former police section site across the road from the Grade-II listed Golden Lane Estate.

The committee approved the application by 13 votes to 10, despite claims it does not meet social housing contribution targets, fails to comply with Golden Lane’s listed building management guidelines, and will plunge the estate and neighbouring park into darkness.

Scaffolding has already gone up on the 1950s building, but residents have lodged a Hail Mary plea to the secretary of state, raising questions over whether planning committee members, including chairman Christopher Hayward, should have declared a variety of commercial interests that connect them with the developer.

In a letter addressed to the Department for Communities & Local Government and seen by City Matters, Dowse & Co Solicitors, who are acting on behalf of the resident consortium, list a variety of financial interests held by members of the planning committee.

The letter refers to Mr Hayward’s position as non-executive director of planning consultancy Indigo Planning Limited, which has, the letter alleges, represented Taylor Wimpey on another planning appeal.

It also alleges Mr Hayward acted as counsel to JBP Associates Limited, whose clients include Taylor Wimpey.

Alderman Sir Michael Bear was called into question by the consortium over his recent appointment as non-executive chairman of the planning consultancy Turley Associates Limited, which has acted for Taylor Wimpey on previous projects.

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Former City of London Lord Mayor Sir Michael Bear in 2010. Photo: Lee-Anne Inglis

The letter also flags councillor James Thomson’s position as the former deputy chief financial officer and chief operations officer of commercial real estate agency Cushman & Wakefield, whose UK residential division have this year been offering flats for sale in Taylor Wimpey’s developments in Dalston, Kings Cross and Battersea.

Planning committee deputy chairman Alistair Moss was also mentioned as a consultant to Westbourne Communications Limited, who are Taylor Wimpey planning consultants, but the letter acknowledges Mr Moss declared the interest and recused himself from voting on the application.

More than 180 locals objected to Taylor Wimpey’s plans to build 41 one-bedroom, 39 two-bedroom, and nine three-bedroom flats on the site. Residents say the proposed development strips neighbouring properties of natural sunlight, destroys the Golden Lane Estate’s heritage value, and will have a significant impact on neighbouring Fortune Street Park and Prior Weston Primary School.

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Taylor Wimpey’s plans for a 99-flat development on the former police section site.

Emma Matthews, who lives in a third-floor flat opposite the development, said the close vote led residents to start asking questions.

“We’re not sure whether these interests should be declared or not but so many of the [Golden Lane Estate listed building] guidelines were breached and our objections were ignored. We don’t need more luxury flats, we need more social housing.”

A Corporation spokesperson said: “We are aware of a letter to the secretary of state requesting that the planning application be called in.

“All procedural requirements were followed to make sure that the decision of the committee was made appropriately, on the basis of planning considerations only, and without regard to issues of ownership. No planning permission will be issued unless so authorised by the secretary of state.”

Lead image: Chris Dorley Brown
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