Tower Hamlets mayor says Robert Jenrick scandal is 'anything but' over as he condemns Tory MP’s response

George Martin
·2-min read
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick speaking in the House of Commons, London, he has faced accusations of "cash for favours" after it emerged the developer, ex-Daily Express owner Richard Desmond, had personally given the Conservative Party £12,000 two weeks after the scheme for 1,500 homes was approved. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick defending himself in the Commons this week. (Getty)

The mayor of Tower Hamlets has warned the government that the Westferry scandal is 'anything but' over as he hit out at Robert Jenrick over his response.

John Biggs said the Tory MP said Jenrick’s behaviour had “blown apart confidence in our planning system”.

Jenrick is accused of overruling officials to approve a controversial property development in London financed by billionaire Richard Desmond, after being spotted watching a video about the project on Desmond’s phone at a Tory fundraiser.

Desmond, the former owner of the Daily Express, then gave a donation of £12,000 to the Conservatives just weeks after the development was given the go-ahead.

A view of the Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs, east London. The £1 billion Westferry Printworks redevelopment scheme in east London was controversially approved in January by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, against the recommendation of a planning inspector. The decision has since been reversed after legal action by Tower Hamlets Council, which had voiced concerns over the size of the development when the plans were first submitted in 2018. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
The £1 billion Westferry Printworks redevelopment scheme in east London was controversially approved in January by Jenrick. (Getty)

Jenrick was reported to parliament's sleaze watchdog this week and was forced to make public a series of text messages of his contact with Desmond.

But Biggs, whose council Jenrick overruled to approve the scheme, warned that the scandal was not yet over.

“Mr Jenrick’s performance in Parliament was less than impressive and he left many questions unanswered. He was however forced to finally release documents relating to his decision,” Biggs wrote on Sunday in an article on Left Foot Forward.

Read more: Boris Johnson has ‘full confidence’ in housing secretary over planning application controversy

“The documents are astonishing, damning and I would argue have blown apart confidence in our planning system under Mr Jenrick. The papers that have been released do indeed suggest he rushed through the decision to help save the developer money and short-change residents in Tower Hamlets.

“The prime minister may consider the Westferry scandal to be a ‘closed matter’, but I can assure him it is anything but.”

It comes as home secretary Priti Patel said the matter over the Westferry affair and Jenrick's handling of it was "closed" during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

"I haven't followed the details of every single decision on this but what I do know and what I can tell you is that the correspondence, the documentation is out in the public domain on this particular application - and rightly so,” Patel said.

"It is a significant decision, a significant application.

"The papers have been published, the secretary of state has followed all issues around transparency.

"It has been discussed in Parliament a number of times, questions have been answered on this and the matter is deemed to be closed."

She added: "It is through that matter of transparency that the matter is now deemed to be closed."

Patel was also asked whether attending a party fundraiser would boost the chances of a successful planning application, said: "No it will not, it will absolutely not.”