Land Grubbers; Tory Sleaze Cash for Access

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES LYONS

DAVID Cameron last night faced fresh claims rich Tory donors influence policy after pocketing millions off firms who stand to gain from new planning laws.

Revised regulations unveiled yesterday set in stone a "presumption" that sustainable developments will get the go-ahead. It is a dramatically pared down reform ministers hope will lead to more house building.

But green groups bitterly oppose the move warning it could spark a planning free for all that will allow firms to concrete over large swathes of the countryside.

The decision to press ahead put the focus on developers who have bankrolled the Tories after the PM was forced to come clean about his secretive donor dinners at Downing Street and Chequers.

Critics accused him of being swayed by gifts of more than pounds 3million that construction firms have pumped into party coffers in just over three years.

The sum includes pounds 510,000 given in the second half of last year, after the proposals were published, or more than pounds 2,700 a day.

Developers donated pounds 267,000 in the last three months of 2011 on top of pounds 243,000 in the previous three months. Some property tycoons have paid thousands of pound to meet Tories through the Conservative Property Forum, an elite club of donors rewarded with "breakfast meetings".

The reforms take effect immediately, but councils have a year to prepare local plans by setting out where development can and should not take place in line with the guidelines.

Cameron come There is no suggestion what the donors directly tried to lobby ministers but Labour MP Simon Danczuk said there was a clear danger that Government policy was swayed by their cash. rich MP MR He added: "First we had cash for access, now it looks like pounds for planning policy. The Tories have solicited donations from fatcat property developers, and now they're changing the law to help them.

"David Cameron must come clean must clean on what influence his rich friends have had on his planning policies."

influence pals have DANCZUK The Conservative Property Forum charged pounds 2,500 to meet ministers and discuss policy and planning issues. It raised around pounds 150,000 a year for the party before it was merged into a City Forum this year. Chair Mike Slade has given more than pounds 300,000 to the Tories over the past decade in personal donations and through his firm Helical Bar.

IM Properties, which is expanding Birch Coppice Business Park, near Tamworth, Staffs, has given around pounds 1million since 2009.

Aggregate Industries has donated pounds 150,000 since 2008. Tory peer Norman Fowler is on the board.

Wates Group, Britain's largest family-owned construction services and development outfit, has handed the Tories pounds 165,000 since Mr Cameron took charge in 2005.

Leonard J Nike, boss of Bracknellbased Nike Nike Construction Ltd, has given pounds 186,836 over same period.

Keltbray Ltd, one of the largest specialist demolition and civil engineering contractor, gave pounds 46,500 over the same period. Construction boss Robert M Kirkland has given pounds 22,641.65 with his Bowmer & Kirkland firm giving another pounds 8,500 since December 2005. …