Home Business The Bribery And Corruption At The Heart Of The Planning System

The Bribery And Corruption At The Heart Of The Planning System



The Jenrick/Desmond row tells us that the British planning system is highly, hugely, corrupt. The question then becomes – because we don’t like corruption in our green and pleasant land – what should we do about this? The answer is, obviously enough, to change our planning system so that it is no and, by preference cannot be, corrupt.

So, abolish the Community Infrastructure Levy. In fact, simply abolish all forms of planning gain. That way there’s no method of nicking money from a project therefore there won’t be corruption about how much should be nicked and by whom.

As Simon Jenkins points out:

The law was broken. There is no argument. At a dinner, a planning minister, Robert Jenrick, sat next to a developer who attempted to lobby him to allow a gigantic £1bn project in London’s Docklands. He then reversed a public decision of his own department, and he expedited it to save the developer, Richard Desmond, some £40m in local levy. His party then accepted an admittedly paltry sum of money from Desmond.

To be fair to Jenrick, he denies none of this and, on legal advice, reversed his decision with lightning speed.

And as The Guardian also explains:

The planning system has historically cast developers and politicians in poacher and gamekeeper roles. But in recent years an increased focus on financial negotiations between public authorities and developers has made simple yes/no decisions into more complex transactions, sparking concerns the system lacks transparency and is vulnerable to corruption.

After years of austerity, cash-strapped councils have become more reliant on using planning deals with developers to provide affordable housing and funds for community infrastructure such as schools and play centres.

It was this financialisation of planning, in the form of the community infrastructure levy (CIL), that snared Jenrick and Desmond over the latter’s plan to turn a redundant printworks in east London into a £1bn housing-led development. The CIL is a per-square-metre charge which councils have been able to apply to large projects since 2010.

The system extends out to how many low rent – commonly called “affordable housing” – units a development must include and all that as well.

But the basic idea here is that for you, Mr. Property Developer you, to be allowed to build something you’ve got to pay off the local political system. How much you’ve got to pay off is a political decision. There are a number of levels at which that pay off can be made. Local councillors say, they can influence the decision. So can the local council itself, so also higher levels of politics like the national Minister in charge, their political party and so on.

The amounts of money involved are substantial – here it’s £40 million, a sum that buys an awful lot of politics. The complaint is that politics is being bought by these sums. The answer is to make the sums not payable therefore there is no incentive to, reason for nor even opportunity for corruption.

Simply abolish the entire idea of planning gain and there is no space left for corruption. Further, any system which has in it a “how much?” negotiation is ripe to be corrupted. So, don’t have such a system. Abolish it and be done with even the temptation.



  1. I’m the face of it, London has a dearth of housing. Someone wants to build some on unused land. Why is the local council not keen to grant permission?

  2. And who pays for the corruption? For the housing developers this has simply become a cost of doing business, so house prices are increased cover it, which in turn pushes up the cost of all housing in the same area. And the sheeple still took to Govt. to solve the ‘housing crisis’? I despair.

  3. Corruption involved in planning permission has been going a lot longer than the legalised extortion called “planning gain”. Those of us old enough to have heard of Poulson and T Dan Smith know that they were just the iceberg


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

Support Us

Recent posts

The Racial Burden Of Student Debt

We had this argument a few years back in the UK, didn't we? Non-gammons seemed to have more student debt because gammons were more...

Insanely Ignorant People – American Prospect Edition

There are times when it's difficult to believe the plain, simple, ignorance of people attempting to comment upon the passing scene. Today's example is...

European Union Announces That EU Banks Don’t All Have To Go Bust Because Brexit

This story is being reported entirely the wrong way around. For we're being told that we should all be really grateful to that lovely...

Dear Guardian – Finding Uranium Is The Easy Bit

The Guardian is all of a fluster because some Chinese companies have been looking for uranium in Saudi Arabia. This is obviously the precursor...

Working From Home – A Briefing Note For Journalists

Hard as this will be for many British journalists to cope with - and impossible for American given that they all only studied journalism...

Recent comments