A team of specialist officers from the Metropolitan Police will be involved after the Government conceded the deal had been ‘unlawful’ when the case was taken to the High Court.
Conservative MP Mr Jenrick signed off planning permission for the Westferry Printworks housing development on the Isle of Dogs, which was set to be up to 46 storeys high.
When the case was taken to court by Tower Hamlets council, the Government admitted the timing of the decision “would lead the fair-minded and informed observer to conclude there was a real possibility (Robert Jenrick) was biased.”
The plans were signed off one day before the council was due to change how it calculated infrastructure charges, which would have meant developers had to pay between £30 and £50 million more, the council says.
This morning (Tuesday, July 1), the Metropolitan Police said it: “Can confirm that the Metropolitan Police received an allegation on Wednesday, May 27 – the details of this are currently being assessed by officers from the Special Enquiry Team.”
The development was put forward by Richard Desmond, the former owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers, and the housing development had been planned for the site of his print works.
Labour has piled the pressure on Mr Jenrick, with shadow housing secretary Mike Amesbury saying the matter was “deeply concerning”, and calling for a cabinet office investigation.
Senior Labour figures on Tower Hamlets Council – where the development was due to be built – have also been highly critical of the secretary of state.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “We may never know what emails and memos the secretary of state received before making his decision and what influence they had, but his reluctance to disclose them speaks volumes.
“In siding with the developer, he went against not only the planning inspector but also the council’s Strategic Development Committee and the residents whose lives would be directly impacted by this scheme.”
A spokesman for Mr Jenrick’s department – the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government – said: “While we reject the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be redetermined.”
Shadow Housing Secretary Mike Amesbury has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, calling for an investigation.
The letter states: “In correspondence to the local authority before they took legal action against Mr Jenrick in March, he indicated that the decision was made before the changes to CIL took place to avoid the developer paying the charge.
“When the local authority went to court over his decision to approve the application, Mr Jenrick was ordered to release documents on his decision so the court could decide whether he was influenced by a desire to save the developer money.
“Instead of releasing the documents, he accepted that his decision showed “apparent bias”, and the future of the application will now be decided by another Secretary of State.”
Sir Mark has asked the cabinet office to answer a series of questions on the matter, including what contact Mr Jenrick or his officials had with the developer, why planning permission was granted despite local objections and what conversations the Prime Minister has had with Mr Jenrick over the application.