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Common councillor meeting in Cripplegate - conflicts of interest, participation in the planning process, culture mile

This week one of the regular meetings between Common Councillors, our Alderman and residents took place.

This was an unusual meeting as it started with a presentation by Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre on the Culture Mile.  This is a joint initiative between local arts venues and the City of London.  It envisages over a period of perhaps fifteen years, creating a district with an identifiable sense of destination linking to the new Museum of London at Smithfield with the Barbican Centre.  The most immediate change is likely to be improvements to the Beech Street tunnel.  The audience was almost unanimous in its support for a project which will increase the quality of the public realm as well as signage, mapping and graphic design. There was also a lot of support for the proposed concert hall on the Museum of London site.

I asked the panel a question about the recently published report on housing by former chair of policy Mark Boleat. See the Evening Standard for the details. All of those on the panel distanced themselves from Boleat's report and comments.

Here is a quote from the article:

"London's housing crisis can only be solved by a radical overhaul of the “deeply flawed” planning system to rein in selfish middle class “Nimbys,” a provocative new report argues today.

"In comments that will anger conservation and resident bodies, former City of London Corporation supremo Sir Mark Boleat said current rules “give far too much weight to articulate groups who make a lot of noise” and not enough weight to young “have-nots” who are priced off the housing ladder."

I also asked a question about the recent article by Anna Minton in the Guardian.  This had focussed on alleged conflicts of interest by those on planning committee who were also commercial planners or developers.  See in particular paragraph four which is quoted here: "The story follows a by-now-familiar plot. In May 2017 planning approval was given to Taylor Wimpey, despite strong opposition from local residents and businesses. During this process it emerged that the chair of the City’s planning and transportation committee, Chris Hayward, is a director of Indigo Planning, whose clients include Taylor Wimpey. Deputy chair James Thomson was formerly deputy chief financial officer and chief operations officer of Cushman and Wakefield, commercial property and real estate consultants, which marketed and sold Bernard Morgan House to Taylor Wimpey. The committee member and former lord mayor of London Sir Michael Bear was appointed chair of the planning consultancy Turley Associates – which also acts for Taylor Wimpey – a few weeks after planning approval was granted."

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Comment by Paul Lincoln on October 27, 2017 at 18:39
I am keen to see what procedures are used to address conflicts of interest. As I said at the meeting, I work for a charity which imposes sensible protocols on its staff and trustees. I am not sure why a local authority would or should have lower standards than those of a charity.
Comment by Stewart Home on October 27, 2017 at 18:06

I thought there was an impressive amount of opposition to the proposed new concert hall given how many classical music fans had been lured to the meeting by the promise of a talk about Culture Mile by Nicholas Kenyon, rather skewing the results of an informal vote. On top of that Kenyon gave us a completely false choice between a concert hall and an office block; there are other options. I also thought the issue of Anna Minton's Guardian piece which you raised was dealt with inadequately by those who replied. Since it isn't just an issue of those named being developers which was addressed, but their connections to firms working with Taylor Wimpey which wasn't addressed at all by those who replied. I also felt the defence of the City of London as NOT being corrupt like Mediterranean countries or T. Dan Smith in the north east of England was unhelpful; the City of London is a unique political entity and as a result if there are corruption issues they are unlikely to resemble those in Mediterranean countries or even on other councils in the UK. I was left with the impression that some parties either weren't properly informed on this matter or were unwilling to have a serious discussion about it. Hopefully it was the former and once they've looked into this matter they'll acquit themselves far better on it.

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