The leader of Swale Borough Council has slammed as “diabolical” the decision by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to back a 675-unit housing scheme at Borden, near Sittingbourne.
It was announced yesterday (Thursday, April 29) that Mr Jenrick was backing an appeal inspector’s decision to give Quinn Estates outline planning permission to build up to 595 homes, a primary school, shop, rugby clubhouse, three sports pitches and a road joining Borden Lane with the A249. There was also full permission for 80 homes.
To worsen matters for the local authority, partial costs were awarded against it.
In a joint statement, council leader Roger Truelove and colleague Simon Clark, both of whom represent Homewood ward to be affected by the development, said: “The decision of the Secretary of State to give planning permission for the whole development between Cryalls Lane and Wises Lane is diabolical.
“In upholding the appeal by Quinn Estates, Mr Jenrick has given permission for development on land outside the Swale Local Plan and for a spine road that will draw traffic through our ward, especially Homewood Avenue, and has given a signal to developers to make further incursions in land to the south of Sittingbourne.
“The decision of the Secretary of State reinforces the belief that the government is determined to impose unsustainable development on the borough of Swale.”
The Borden scheme had proved contentious from the beginning and sparked the headline “Robert Jenrick in new UK ‘cash for favours’ row” on the website OpenDemocracy, which reported that Quinn Estates had “made major donations to the Conservatives directly before and after Jenrick chose to take responsibility for deciding on Quinn’s bid to build 675 houses in Sittingbourne, Kent”.
The story continued: “Shortly before Jenrick became involved in the decision, the developer, Quinn Estates, gave £11,000 to the Conservatives. Less than three weeks later, the firm donated a further £26,500 to the party.”
It added: “In July 2019, the Swale local council signalled their intention to reject planning permission outright. Quinn appealed, and the issue was due to be decided by a local planning inspector.
“But a letter sent by a senior civil servant on Robert Jenrick’s behalf on August 13 said that ‘the Secretary of State considers that he should determine it himself.’”
The OpenDemocracy story, written in July last year, noted that “Quinn Estates, and the company’s owner Mark Quinn, have donated around £140,000 to the Conservatives’ central party and Tory MPs across the south-east of England in recent years, including almost £10,000 to Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing and £5,500 to Folkestone MP Damian Collins.
“Quinn companies have a number of projects in those constituencies, including a major proposed development in Epping Forest and a mix[ed] housing scheme in Folkestone that was given planning permission last year.”
OpenDemocracy referred to an article elsewhere in which Mr Quinn dismissed any malpractice: “Asked about his approach to planning in 2018, Quinn said ‘Brown envelopes? Planning is given by a democratically elected committee. All their accounts are checked. We’re not allowed to do anything to jeopardise that.’”
- You can read the OpenDemocracy story here
Friday, April 30, 2021