Concern over openness after no minutes taken in Brent Council leader's meetings with planning developers
PUBLISHED: 12:41 21 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:41 21 November 2017
Residents have called for greater openness after it was revealed that Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt met with planning developers and their representatives for a site in Alperton three times this year, with no records kept of what was said.
Developers for the controversial £150m Minavil House in Alperton met with Cllr Butt in April. Further meetings took place in May, on one occasion over a hospitality lunch, a Freedom of Information (FOI) report showed.
The Minavil House application was approved earlier this year despite concerns over its height. R55 were granted permission to build a 26 storey tower despite “promises” by Cllr Butt that the tower wouldn’t be over 17 floors. Construction is yet to start.
Andrew Linnie, opposed the proposals. He believes the FOI means residents should question the “open transparency of the planning process.”
Cllr Butt, along with two officers in the regeneration department met with R55 on April 5 at 10:30am for an hour. A lunch, where R55 were represented, took place on May 10, and a third meeting took place, this time between Cllr Butt representatives of an agent working on behalf of R55 on May 23, also for an hour. No records were made of any of these meetings.
The Local Government Association advise that minutes should be taken at these meetings. The final meeting on May 23 took place the day before the planning committee met. According to Mr Linnie, “meeting with developers and their representatives the day before the council is due to rule on a scheme, especially one of such scale, is unprecedented and brings the entire planning process into disrepute.”
Resident Philip Grant believes doubts should be raised about whether the result of those meetings was that members of the planning committee were influenced to decide applications in favour of the developer.
“The lack of proper records does mean that ‘deciding planning matters in a fair, impartial and transparent manner’ is at risk.”
“Brent councillors and officers do need to ensure that proper records are kept of any meeting with developers or any other third party dealing with the Council on important matters.”
A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “As is normal in local authorities across the country, the leader of the council, the cabinet member for regeneration and senior officers meet with developers on a regular basis. These meetings are informal and minutes are not routinely taken.”