Property developers gave the Tories £891,000 in the first quarter of 2021.
This included developers eager to build in ‘Your Waverley.’
Now Tory ministers have been accused of ‘selling out communities’ after an analysis of recent donation declarations.
Labour has accused the Conservative party of “selling out communities to pay back developers” after figures revealed that 13% of the Tories’ recent donations came from property tycoons and companies.
No surprises there for us here at the Waverley Web. We have first-hand knowledge of developers who have boosted the Tory coffers – and who once upon a time held secret meetings with Waverley’s head planning honchos. Tory councillors, one of whom managed to build in the Green Belt, despite officers’ dire warnings whilst opposing the breach, sat for months carving up the eastern village of Cranleigh with developers as if it were a birthday cake. Which achieved exactly that. All their birthdays and Christmas’s came almost at once.
Labour’s analysis of declarations released by the Electoral Commission show firms gave £891,984 to Tory central office and eight local associations – a sizeable chunk of the £6,418,295 the party reported receiving in the first three months of 2021.
Some developers in ‘Your Waverley’ just couldn’t help boasting about their good fortune, claiming they had a back door into Number 10. Ker-ching! Homes built in a flood plain.
It comes as the government prepares to launch sweeping changes to the planning system that Labour says will remove communities’ right to object to inappropriate individual developments in their area.
Ministers are aiming to centralise and accelerate the housebuilding process in England to help boost homeownership in areas across the north and Midlands, which have seen increased levels of Conservative support.
But opposition among Tory MPs has been well aired in advance of the planning bill being introduced to parliament, with the former prime minister Theresa May among the potential rebels who told the government to “think again”. Another backbencher, Bob Seely, said last month that the plan “threatens to give our opponents throughout England a rallying cry of ‘save local democracy from the Tories’”. Recently Guildford & Cranleigh MP Angela Richardson boasted on Twitter that she had visited the PM to talk about her concerns over the future of the Green Belt and the effect the new legislation could have in the areas beyond the green belt.
It has now been revealed that 36 donations from developers were made to the Conservatives in the first three months of this year.
Most sums were paid to Conservative central office, with the largest single donation made by Bloor Holdings Ltd, which gave £150,000.
Labour’s Steve Reed, the shadow communities and local government secretary, said the new figures were:
“yet more evidence of the cosy relationship between the Conservative party and property developers, who for their investment will be allowed to concrete over communities at will”.
He said the planning bill would:
“reward developers by gagging residents so they have no say over plans to bulldoze local neighbourhoods” and added: “The Conservatives are paying back developers by selling out communities. Labour will fight this developers’ charter so that communities have right to a fair hearing in planning decisions.”
The Lib Dems have also sought to use the controversial planning changes as fodder for attacking the Conservatives in the Chesham and Amersham by-election on 17 June. The frontbencher Layla Moran recently said the bill would:
“create a developer’s free-for-all across the Chilterns” and mean builders could soon be “riding roughshod over the views of local people”.
A Conservative party spokesperson said:
“Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the party receives – they are entirely separate.
“Donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”
Oh! really? Most of the country would like to see more transparency with the funding of political parties.
The spokesperson added that “working with the housing industry is an essential part of getting new homes built and regenerating brownfield land”.