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2.10.53 GBC’s conflicts of interest. GBC performs different and conflicting functions.

It is the Local Planning


Authority (LPA). As the LPA GBC is responsible for judging local planning applications – a quasi-judicial
role. It is also responsible for making local planning rules, in effect local planning law.
2.10.54 These two roles, one as regulator and the other as law-maker, create the possibility of conflicts of
interest. GBC makes local planning law, gathers the evidence, and acts as the judge in planning
applications. In gathering evidence GBC is in a position to select information to support the policies it
wishes to promote. This may be subject to confirmation bias. It may also be subject to ex post
rationalisation and justification of ex ante decisions. This is the phenomenon of the darts player
drawing the bull’s eye around the dart after the dart has already landed. Changing corporate
objectives to fit the ex post results or gathering evidence to justify corporate policies is a common
phenomenon where holders of executive power are not subject to proper independent scrutiny and
accountability.
2.10.55 Transparency International UK on the risks of corruption in UK local government. In 2014 Transparency
International UK published a paper titled: ‘Corruption in Local Government: the Mounting Risks’. Its
definition of corruption is ‘the abuse of trusted power for private gain’. It analysed the ‘institutional
robustness and integrity of local government’ and identified a number of risks. It reported

‘…, a disturbing picture emerges, and one on which experts and interviewees were agreed. On the
one hand, the conditions are present in which corruption is likely to thrive – low levels of
transparency, poor external scrutiny, networks of cronyism, reluctance or lack of resource to
investigate, outsourcing of public services, significant sums of money at play and perhaps a denial
that corruption is an issue at all. On the other hand, the system of checks and balances that
previously existed to limit corruption has been eroded or deliberately removed. These changes
include the removal of independent public audit of local authorities, the withdrawal of a universal
national code of conduct, the reduced capacity of the local press and a reduced potential scope to
apply for freedom of information requests. We have identified 16 areas in which we find a marked
decline in the robustness of local government to resist corruption.’

2.10.56 Section 2.3 of the report, ‘Distorted Planning Decisions’ is relevant to this Application and Appeal. Specific
mention is made of Change of Use planning applications and s106 conditions:

‘Another corruption risk in the area of planning relates to applications for ‘change of use’. All land
under the control of local authorities is categorised as being suitable for certain types of usage,
such as ‘green belt’ or ‘residential’, but local authorities have the authority to grant permission for
a change of use. Such change-of-use permissions are particularly valuable in the United Kingdom
where ‘development gain’ – the increase in the value of land as a result of change of use – is not
taxable Thus, developers may seek to corrupt planning officers or committee members to approve
an application for change of use.’

2.10.57 The report also highlights the risks of informal accumulations of power:

‘Most councillors act with great integrity and generously invest their time to serve the public
interest, but some of the worst cases of corruption in councils have been perpetrated by elected
members. Council leaders, in particular, can in certain conditions accumulate substantial formal
and informal powers, such that officers and fellow councillors become reluctant to challenge
them. The Committee on Standards in Public Life has commented that,

“Past history suggests that problems are most likely in areas with monolithic political cultures and
correspondingly little political challenge, where partisan rivalry is most bitter and tit for tat
accusations most common, or in those predominantly rural areas with significant numbers of
independent members without the benefit of party discipline.”

Council leaders have considerable patronage power, which can facilitate corruption. They are able
to appoint the members of their cabinet and award chairmanships – all roles which bring financial
gain for the recipients in the form of ’special responsibility allowances’. This may lead to situations
where councillors are unwilling to challenge a leader because they fear losing one of these roles, or
where they feel obliged to provide informal favours, such as offering information or ‘turning a blind
eye’ to misconduct.’

2.10.58 These are not purely academic considerations. The deputy leader of the Conservative Party in
Guildford, Ms Monika Juneja, was concurrently in charge of the local plan, including s106
negotiations, and the standards committee. The standards committee was disbanded and/or did not
meet under her leadership. She was subsequently convicted of forgery and fraud. Despite this
Guildford Borough Council found that there had been no breaches of its Code of Conduct. Fraud is
notoriously difficult to prove. But in circumstances where an applicant for a change of use is
registered offshore, where the Council has expressly refused to inquire into its beneficial owners,
where, senior members of that leadership have in the past been convicted of fraud and forgery, the
parties are not above suspicion. There are huge potential profits are at stake. Freedom of information
requests reveal that meetings between the applicant and GBC have not been minuted by GBC in
accordance with its Codes of Conduct. The local planning authority has not fulfilled its obligations
under the NPPF in a transparent and conscientious manner. The leader of the Council has
concentrated power of decision into his own hands by simultaneously being the member responsible
for the local plan – succeeding Ms Juneja in the role. On 13 May, 2016 he gave an interview to the
Surrey Advertiser promoting the site – in terms that impugn his impartiality:

“I am convinced, subject to a whole bunch of things coming together, we should be able to deliver a
sustainable community at that site…. …. So I think there is a fundamental need in terms of
improvement to that application but will they do that during the plan period? If they don’t I believe
someone else will”.

2.10.59 Mr Murray’s self disclosed cv is reproduced below:


2.10.60 The developer did not meet Ockham Parish Council until 2016 - and only then at the request of the
Parish Council. GBC has never formally consulted the Parish Council about any aspect of the
development.
2.10.61 The political associations and connections of the Developer with the Conservative Party create the
possibility of the sorts of corruption described by Transparency International UK. The promoter of the
project, Mr Michael Murray’s cv states that he joined ‘Wharf Land Investment1 with former British
Government cabinet minister David Mellor at its inception in 2003 as Managing Director, and
subsequently moved all his activity focus to Causeway Lane in June 2011’. He is a member of the
Conservative Party, has held a number of senior roles, including responsibility for delivering ‘a new
local plan providing for 20,000 new homes’ in the Vale of White Horse. He was a candidate for the
seat of Gower. Guildford Borough Council is controlled and led by the Conservative Party. The Leader
of the Council is also the member responsible for the new local plan. He has been quoted extensively
in the Surrey Advertiser promoting this site.
2.10.62 The promotion of the Appeal Site in the draft local plan without broader examination of
● its suitability in the context of the borough and the broader region,
● other possible sites for new settlements,
● its history,
● the many constraints on the site, and
● without first completing habitats regulations and heritage assessments
all cast doubt on the objectivity of the decision and the impartiality of the LPA.

2.10.63 Political expediency and influence are factors in the planning process and should be transparently
considered. In an article for Planning Practice and Research titled Limits to Growth: The Challenge of
Housing Delivery in England’s ‘Under-bounded’ Districts Iqbal Hamiduddin & Nick Gallent comment:

‘[demand for housing] raises the prospect of housing being located where it is politically expedient
rather than where it is most suitable. Indeed, Gallent et al. (2011, p. 19) note that sites such as old
airfields are likely to be revisited, despite the doubtful sustainability credentials of many such sites.’

2.10.64 The regional spatial and green belt factors should have been dealt with at the outset as logically prior
questions. If they had been it would have been apparent that there were no sustainable grounds for
promoting this site in the Local Plan.
2.10.65 Specific corruption risks relevant to the assessment of the Appeal Site. Another risk highlighted by
Transparency International UK is lack of critical scrutiny – accentuated by the dominance of one political
party. One example of this has been the refusal of the Council to obtain the arithmetic housing need
model from the sub-sub contractor that created it. Another example is the refusal of the scrutiny
committee to scrutinise the SHMA.
2.10.66 One of the risks that the Guildford Planning Code of Conduct is intended to mitigate is the risk that GBC as
regulator becomes too close to particular promoters and development sites. The failure of GBC to keep
and disclose its own minutes of meetings with developers suggests that it has not maintained a proper
objective distance.
2.10.67 There is a risk that the promoter of the Appeal Site has used his political influence to obtain extraordinary
access to GBC to promote the Appeal Site.

1
http://www.wallace.co.uk/press-release/wallace-llp-scores-resounding-victory-in-the-court-of-appeal-for-russian-
entrepreneur-in-property-fraud/