Sandbanks – New Romney: Are local Tories ‘in hock’ to developers via their donations?
Sandbanks planning application was successful at last night’s Planning Committee. However, it’s clear the closeness of the developer Leo Griggs with members of the planning committee, plus the fact he has donated to the local Tory party and is a member and has been out on the campaign trail with them, throws into doubt the impartiality of the planning committee.
So it began with Cllr Jackie Meade (Lab) reminding the Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr David Wimble, to declare his disclosable pecuniary interests in Sandbanks – Littlestone – New Romney. Cllr Wimble, under duress, disclosed the fact Leo Griggs the developer of Sandbanks, advertises in Cllr Wimble’s “community paper“.
He fails to mention the fact that Belmont Healthcare who are still named as the owners of Sandbanks on the Land Registry title deed, also advertises in his “community paper. Of course, it slipped his mind, like paying his council tax, having insurance for his car, or being interviewed under caution have previously slipped his mind.
Wimble moves on and speculates as to why the Council use Leo Grigg’s companies – Livingston Homes and Alliance Building Company.
Alas, Cllr Wimble fails to mention Leo is a local Tory donor; a local tory party member, and a former local tory Cllr on Sandgate Parish Council. Of course, none of this plays a part in the council’s decision to use Leo, does it?
Cllr Georgina Treloar (Green) also raises Cllr Wimble “reluctance” to declare his interests in knowing the developer personally. She also doubts his ability to be able to vote on the Sandbank planning application, as he is conflicted in her view.
Let’s not forget Cllr Wimble registered his company Radiowaves Media at Leo’s home address in Enbrook Valley, so he and Leo are close, very close. It’s not just advertising in his “community newspaper“.
Then Cllr Gary Fuller (Lib Dem) also raised the issue of Cllr Wimble failing to disclose a pecuniary interest.
He asks the monitoring officer – Amandeep Khroud to look at Cllr Wimble’s declaration, or rather lack of it. But given the track record of the monitoring officer, we believe Cllr Fuller is p*ssing in the wind, and hell would sooner freeze over before he got a answer from the monitoring officer. But you never know.
Then Cllr Wimble responds to Cllr Fuller’s remarks, making it clear he draws no wage from his “community newspaper” He did fail to mention the former company which ran the “community newspaper” Marsh Media Ltd had liabilities in excess of £100,000, according to the latest accounts lodged at Companies House. The current company which runs the “community newspaper” The Looker Newspaper Ltd – incorporated Oct 2019 – is in the black to the tune of £1,387 and the amount falling to creditors in one year at £44,081.
Now of course, it is true Cllr Wimble did reluctantly declare an interest that the developer advertised in his “community newspaper“, after Cllr Jackie Meade (Lab) reminded him. He didn’t remind us all that Belmont Healthcare the current owners of tSandbanks, according to the Land Registry, also advertise with him and that he failed to declare this interest as well.
Cllr’s forgetting who their friends are, who advertise with them, who register businesses at the developer’s home address, is not new, just ask Cllr Monk who’s friend Mr Westgarth had a charge on his house and was seeking to develop Little Densole Farm.
Also let’s not forget, Cllr Clive Goddard was not in the chair at the planning committee, as we outed him working for Leo and forced him into declaring his interest in knowing Leo. We also note Cllr John Collier who we outed, as his son works for Leo had previously forgotten to declare his interests regarding Leo. And bringing up the rear is Cllr Jenny (Nine Homes) Hollingsbee, was absent as she too has a friendship with Leo.
With all this going on in the background, which of course is NOT a material planning consideration, is it any wonder the Planning Committee get’s tainted by cronyism and of whipping when all the Tories on the committee all vote for acceptance?
Yes a number of council homes will become available on the site, but the reputation of the planning committee has been damaged. One cannot say the planning committee appeared to be fair and impartial on this occasion.
Is there any validity that local tories are ‘in hock’ to developers such as Leo Griggs, Mark Quinn and Peter Tory of Pentland Homes or Sir Roger De Haan and his wife Lady De Haan?
Donations to political parties are perfectly legitimate. This is how british politics work, which is made clear by Bobby Friedman in Democracy Ltd, that donors often expect something in return for their money.
When the local Tories become heavily reliant on a small number of local donors it creates the perception, and quite possibly the reality, they are beholden to narrow sectional interests. This generates a deep local public suspicion that those with the deepest pockets wield outsized and undue influence over decision-making at local level, especially when it comes to planning decisions.
Until this apparent coziness evaporates, the perception of the planning committee being able to be bought by those who’ve made donations will not go away. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.
The Shepway Vox Team
Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime
Excellent article, I am sure that the readers of Private Eye would enjoy reading it as much as I did.
EXCELLENT PIECE, WELL WRITTEN. IT IS VERY DIFFICULT AS A SUBSTANTIAL TAX PAYER TO FOLKESTONE AND HYTHE DISTRICT COUNCIL NOT TO HAVE THE PERCEPTION OF CORRUPTION AT WORK IN THESE DECISIONS. JUST A SHAME THAT THEY DONT HAVE SHARES IN VEOLIA AS WE MIGHT GET OUR BINS EMPTIED!
Why is there so much reluctance on the part of the monitoring officer, Amandeep Khroud, to question councillors interests with developers? It is plainly obvious that there is a problem and it is her job, for which she gets handsomely paid, at the council payers expense, to ask councillors to come clean. If she is not willing to do what she is paid for then surely she should be reported to her professional body. There must be some way of making her responsible for the interests of the tax payer.
Excellent informative article.
It may be worth Shepway Vox submitting an FOI request to the Council requesting information on how she has performed in her role as monitoring officer i.e the number of enquiries about conflicts of interest that have been submitted to her for each councillor and how she has responded to those requests.
I don’t know whether she actually “has teeth” when it comes to her performing her statutory duties or, whether she is just a “paper tiger.” If she is doing her job I am sure that the Council will be delighted to provide the evidence to prove it. If not…..
This is state capture on our doorstep