Milton Keynes MP denies '˜pulling strings' with the Secretary of State over housing development
A begging letter to a government bigwig signed '˜Yours ever' has prompted criticism for city MP Iain Stewart.
The MP’s hand-written missive ‘implored’ Communities Minister Sajid Javid to intervene in a Secretary of State planning appeal for 200 new homes in Woburn Sands.
Three MK councillors, said to be worried the developers will win, had already written to housing minister Alok Sharma asking for the appeal result to be called in.
But their request was met with a firm no – because a matter has to be of ‘national significance’ for the government to intervene.
Mr Stewart, however, had instant success. Mr Javid, despite his calls for more new house building to overcome the national crisis, passed the letter to Alok Sharma.
Backtracking on the government’s previous view, Mr Sharma agreed – placing the fate of Woburn Sands firmly in the hands of Mr Javid.
He has the power to override the view of the planning inspector who conducted the six-day appeal, which was held in July with costly barristers employed by both MK Council and developers Wavendon Properties Ltd.
A source said: “This smacks of pulling strings and ‘favours for the boys’ to me. The government, which is crying out for more housebuilding, refused the councillors’ request to call in this appeal, then agree when an MP scribbles a friendly letter.”
Mr Stewart insists he was simply representing his constituents, many of whom are opposed to the development because it is outside the planning boundaries of MK.
“I always sign off my letters with ‘yours ever’ if I know the person,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with old boys networking. I was doing my democratic duty as an MP.
The letter, which starts with ‘Dear Sajid’, and thanks him for his “kind” email on Mr Stewart’s election to the government’s transport committee.
It states: “I implore you to intervene in any way you can to at least delay the announcement of the Inspector’s decision.”
A few weeks ago Mr Javid made a publicly attacked his own party’s miserable house-building record, saying the country needed 266,000 new homes built every year to ease the housing crisis.
Bletchley-based Wavendon Properties Ltd want to build 203 homes on land to the west of Newport Road and west and east of Cranfield Road in Woburn Sands
Twelve months ago the planning application was recommended for approval by MK council officers. But development control councillors voted against it.
Wavendon Properties, owned by brothers Mart and Matthew Storey, launched an appeal and sources say the hearing seemed to sway in the developer’s favour. The verdict was due last month. Now the developer may have to wait up to a year for a decision.
Mr Stewart said: ““This is an extremely important time for Milton Keynes. As we look beyond our 50th year we need to make sure that we continue to keep our housing development well planned and infrastructure led. We are well beyond our originally planned size both in terms of population and footprint. Residents are not against continuing that growth but it is important it is planned and communities have buy in. This development risks that at this time.”