Greenwich council does not rule out further offering planning tips to landowners in return for cash

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

Greenwich council will not rule out taking further contributions from landowners in return for offering planning guidance on sites they’re looking to develop, one of the authority’s senior councillors has said.

It comes after it was revealed last month the authority accepted £30,000 from the landowners of the iconic Greenwich Peninsula gas holder site to help prepare a planning brief.

The issue was brought up by Cllr Nigel Fletcher, the leader of the Conservative group, in September’s full meeting of the authority – which was also the first since the payment was uncovered.

Questioning cabinet member for regeneration and growth, Sarah Merrill, Cllr Fletcher said the contribution “understandably caused quite a lot of concern”.

He added: “She must appreciate this does look quite concerning to people that we are receiving funds from those with an interest with a site to pay for a planning brief for that site.”

Cllr Merrill, who gained a reputation as someone unafraid to reject developers’ advances in the borough when she chaired Greenwich’s planning board before being called up to cabinet earlier this year, said accepting the funds came down to the authority being “extremely strapped for resources”.

He said: “The planning board is never influenced by such matters as this. This was new to me…and this is the only time that Greenwich has done this,” she answered.

“What I will say is we are extremely strapped for resources which is a direct result of the government.

“(Cllr Fletcher) will know I personally am never swayed (by developers)…I have a reputation for standing up to developers.

“In this particular case SGM are getting a robust run for their money.”

A decision by the authority to accept £30,000 from landowners SGM to help prepare a planning brief for the iconic gas holder site attracted national attention when it was revealed in The Guardian last month.

The brief concluded the area could accommodate high-rise buildings including as many as 1,200 homes, offices, a hotel, shops and restaurants.

Dan Brown, a spokesman for SGN, told The Guardian: “We had no role in producing the planning brief and the brief does not necessarily reflect the most favourable possible outcome for us”.

In a further answer to Cllr Fletcher’s question, the council states independent consultants were appointed to do the work and “were commissioned by the

council alone and every step of the process was transparent”.

“In fact, rather than dictating how the brief should look, the landowner objected to aspects of it,” the council stated.

Pictured top: Greenwich council accepted £30,000 from the landowners of the iconic Greenwich Peninsula gas holder site to help prepare a planning brief, it was revealed last month

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