Socialist Worker

Labour funding row: green light given for fast track planning applications

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2081

The Newcastle businessman at the centre of the Labour party donations scandal had a planning application fast tracked under a scheme the government is now pushing across the country.

David Abrahams, who gave more than £650,000 to Labour via proxy donors, had plans for the Durham Green business park included in a government pilot scheme aimed at speeding up the planning decision process.

In December 2005 he handed out more than £99,000 in secret donations to the Labour Party.

A month after the donations, Abrahams was granted planning permission to build his multimillion pound 540-acre business park on green belt land.

This application was submitted to be part of the government’s Planning Delivery Agreements (PDAs) project.

Yvette Cooper, then minister for housing and planning, named Abrahams’ scheme as one of 20 new PDAs that will be set up across Britain.

Douglas Alexander, then ­secretary of state for transport, also approved a new £11.4 million road close to the development.

The 2.5 mile road would greatly improve access to the business park site.

There is no connection between the donations and the fast tracking of the planning process. The police are currently investigating the donations.

All 21 schemes submitted to the government for consideration as PDAs were approved.

Abrahams’ donations were unlawful because people must use their own names when giving sums of more than £5,000 to political parties.

The pilot scheme for speeding up the planning process is being extended as part of New Labour’s Housing and Regeneration Bill, currently going through parliament.

For all the rhetoric about solving the housing crisis, it seems the government is determined is to push ahead with aiding the property developers – with or without donations to the Labour Party.

The House of Commons council housing group of MPs is organising an inquiry to collect evidence to support amendments to the government’s Housing and Regeneration Bill.

The MPs are asking tenants and campaigners to send in evidence and come to parliament on 22 January to lobby MPs.

Defend Council Housing is urging tenants mobilise for the lobby. For details go to »

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Article information

Tue 11 Dec 2007, 18:44 GMT
Issue No. 2081
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