Agenda item

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations by members and officers of the existence and nature of any personal or prejudicial interests in matters on this agenda.


2.1       Councillor Davis declared that any members of the Majority Party who had or would make representations on the applications on the agenda were his friends.  He also advised that in his capacity as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning it was inevitable and part of his role that he gets to know, meet and talk to leading members of the planning and property industry including landowners and developers and their professional teams such as architects, surveyors, planning consultants, lawyers and public affairs advisers as well as residents, residents associations and amenity groups.  It was his practice to make such declarations.  He stated that it did not mean that they were his personal friends or that he had a pecuniary interest but that he had worked with them in his capacity as Cabinet Member for Planning.


2.2       He also explained that all four Members of the Committee were provided a week before the meeting with a full set of papers including a detailed officer’s report on each application together with bundles of every single letter or e-mail received in respect of every application including all letters and e-mails containing objections or giving support. Members of the Committee read through everything in detail prior to the meeting - often taking a whole day over the weekend to do so.


2.3       Accordingly, if an issue or comment made by a correspondent was not specifically mentioned at the meeting in the officers presentation or by Members of the Committee, because of the need to get through a long agenda, it does not mean that Members have ignored the issue as they will have read about it and comments made by correspondents in the papers read prior to the meeting.


2.4       Councillor Davis also declared that in his capacity as the Cabinet Member for the Built Environment with specific responsibility for planning he regularly met with developers as part of the City Council’s pre-application engagement with applicants.  This was wholly in accordance with normal protocols and the terms set out in the Localism Act 2011 and as amplified in the Communities and Local Government Guidance document “A Plain English Guide to the Localism Act”.


2.5       The meetings held with applicants and in some case objectors too are without prejudice and all parties are advised that a final formal decision is only taken when all the facts are before him and his Committee through the normal planning application process.


2.6       He also stated that in his capacity as Cabinet Member he knew a number of Planning Consultants in Westminster, some of whom were representing the applicants on a number of items on the agenda, including Four Communications, Gerald Eve, Belgrave and DP9.


2.7       Councillor Davis made the following further declarations as they related to the specific applications on the agenda:


            Item 1 - that the council has an interest in the development as the freeholder of the building and that he is a member of the Council. He has had meetings with the applicants about the proposals and knows directors of Dukelease and DP9.


            Item 2 - the application has been considered by the committee previously. He has had meetings with the applicants at various stages on both the current and previous applications. He knows Sir Stuart Lipton and directors of DP9.


            Item 3 - he has had meetings with the applicants, knows directors of Gerald Eve as well as the directors of the Communications Group that occupies the premises, however, he had not discussed the application with them.


            Item 4 - the application has been considered by the committee previously. He has had a series of meetings with the applicants. He knows Sir Peter Hendy and other senior officers of Transport for London. He also knows directors of CBRE.


            Item 5 - he has had meetings with applicants and knows directors of GVA.


            Item 7 -the principal proposal had been considered by the committee previously but not the detailed artwork. He had held meetings with the applicants on the original development. He knows the directors of Frogmore and Rolfe Judd.


            Item 8 - he knows that the directors of Montagu Evans.


2.8     Councillor Davis read out the following statement following advice provided on behalf of the Head of Legal and Democratic Services:


“During the course of the day it has been drawn to my attention that some members have been asked if they would take into account confidential letters.


For the avoidance of doubt, I must make it clear that under the provisions of Sections 100A to 100K of the Local Government Act 1972, meetings of the Council’s Planning Applications Committee are required to be open to the public except when the Committee has resolved to go into closed session in order to consider ‘exempt information’ as defined in the Act. Agendas, reports and other documents presented to those meetings are required to be open to public inspection, except when those documents contain exempt information. These requirements were enacted by Parliament in the interests of transparency and fairness to all concerned.


Amongst the categories of ‘exempt information’ are ‘information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information’, ‘information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings’ and ‘information relating to any action taken or to be taken in connection with the prevention, investigation or prosecution of crime’. Information is only ‘exempt information’ if and so long as, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


I would like to make it clear that if anyone wishes the Committee to consider a document confidentially, they  must first submit that document to Council officers who will decide whether grounds exist for treating it as ‘exempt information’. It should be emphasised that no commitment can be given as to how a document will be handled, either by the members of the Committee or by the officers advising it, until they know the contents of the document concerned and are in a position to judge whether it contains ‘exempt information’.”


2.9     Councillor Iain Bott declared in respect of item 1 that he attends All Souls Church which is connected to All Souls Clubhouse but is a separate entity.