There’s more to this than meets the eye.
Not only has the site been closed by the Health & Safety Executive, but as we reported back in Nov 2018, the Council have skin in the game, via their company Oportunitas Ltd who decided to purchase some of the homes “off plan” prior to planning.
Leo first came to the The Shepway Vox Team’s attention in Oct 2015, in a blog – Something is Rotten in the District Of Shepway. That blog highlighted a very murky deal between his company and Oportunitas Ltd, 100% owned by Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
The Royal Victoria Hospital Construction site is owned by Leo Livingstone Griggs a local developer, via two companies he owns. RVH Folkestone Ltd and Livingston Homes Ltd.
Four Cllrs declared an interest that they were known to the applicant, Leo Griggs, at the planning committee meeting held on Tuesday, 17th December, 2019, which granted permission.
They remained in the meeting during discussion and voted on the application. The vote was as follows: Voting: For 10; Against 0; Abstentions 0.
Leo is well known to Cllr David Monk & his wife. Leo is also a member of the local Tory party and was a former Sandgate Parish Cllr.
Leo Griggs far left
Claims by the site manager and other reliable well placed sources claim Folkestone & Hythe District Council have purchased homes on the Royal Victoria Hospital construction site. And come what may the site will go ahead. This is because the Council have skin in the game via their wholly owned company Oportunitas, just like they did five years ago, when they did a murky deal with Leo’s company over 15 Grace Hill.
The site manager of the Royal Victoria Hospital site made it clear the deal was struck before planning. This chimes with what a variety of others well placed sources claim too.
As we understand, Oportunitas were in discussions with Leo to purchase between 35 – 40 homes “off plan” on the site back in Nov 2018, prior to Leo gaining planning permission. The purchase of the properties off plan would cost between £6 – 7 million, according to well placed council sources.
Buying a house or flat off-plan means buying it before it’s been built.
We are sure that Dr. Susan Priest, The Chief Exec, who signed off the purchase of land at Biggins Wood for £1.5 million, from a known convicted criminal, would be aware of any deal done.
The deal would be done through an escrow account; which of course is private, so known to three parties. The buyer – the Council, the seller – Leo; and the escrow company.
An escrow account is where funds are held in trust whilst two or more parties complete a transaction. This means a trusted third party will secure the funds in a trust account. The funds will be disbursed to the seller – Leo, after they have fulfilled the escrow agreement ie built the homes. If the seller — Leo, fails to deliver their obligation, then the funds are returned to the buyer ie the Council.
This is very murky indeed, as the public statements by the site manager make it clear there is more to this than meets the eye.
We call upon Cllr Tim Prater Cabinet Member for Corruption (who knows Leo) at Folkestone & Hythe District Council and the Chief Exec of the Council, Dr Susan Priest, to use their powers to initiate a full independent investigation into what deal has been struck between the Council and Leo Griggs to purchase home on his site.
Without such an investigation, no resident of the district can have any certainty of the levels of perceived, or real corruption risks in our planning system regarding big decisions; which appear to be distorted in favour of powerful, private interests such as Leo’s.
Such moves by the council to purchase the units in advance, may well have been known to some members of the planning committee, prior to the vote to grant permission on Tuesday, 17th December, 2019, and potentially influenced their decision.
Of course you can email Cllr Tim Prater and the Chief Exec asking them to initiate a full independent investigation into this very murky affair.
Poor practice, a lack of oversight by the Monitoring Officer, meetings behind closed doors; and meetings not -minuted between developers and the council pre-application planning advice team, give residents the overriding impression that decisions are being taken to benefit powerful and wealthy interests at the expense of delivering much-needed, truly affordable homes.
Cllr Prater and the Chief Exec can put these fears and claims by Leo Griggs site manager and other reputable sources to bed by initiating a full independent investigation. But do they have the appetite? Only time will tell.
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent