8 December 2011

Gifts & Hospitality in Environment, Planning & Regeneration

Mr Mustard has been a bit slow in getting through all lists of gifts and hospitality. Some say that this sort of thing just doesn't go on any more but given that the word free is a magic word, Mr Mustard thinks it does. There were a few gifts in EPR as one would expect with all those planning permissions to obtain, so much at stake, must curry some favour with a croissant (yes really, a single croissant) or 4 cupcakes (bless)  

So here are the gifts and hospitality. Not a single value was written in the value column so it has been excluded from the table. Please record real or estimated values in the future EPR.

Tickets to Sadler’s Wells x2
Martin Cowie, AD Planning and Development
Dinner x 2 
Stewart Murray, Director of Planning, Housing and Regeneration
Tickets to cricket match at the Oval and dinner x 2
Stewart Murray, Director of Planning, Housing and Regeneration
Drinks Reception at RA

Trowers and Hamlin
Football ticket
Pam Wharfe, Interim Director for Planning, Environment and Regeneration 
C&G Properties
Pam Wharfe, Interim Director for Planning, Environment and Regeneration 
C&G Properties
Dinner and talk

Tea, coffee and tour of estate development x8

Home Group
Grants Whiskey  bottle x1

Dinner (while attending event in Manchester)

WSP Engineers
Fresh croissant x1

Bottle of wine

Box of chocolates

Bottle of wine

Priority Estates Project
Bottles of red wine x2

Bottle of wine

Priority Estates Project
£20 M&S gift voucher

Cosmetic products (donated to charity shop)

Box of chocolates

Chocolate cupcakes x4

Bottle of wine

Book loan

Travel clock x1

Now let us have a quick check of the rules; Mr Mustard likes rules; Barnet Council only like rules for other people. 

Invitations to prestige sporting events, such as Wimbledon, and other occasions such as theatre, opera or weekend breaks must not be accepted.

Cast your eyes up a bit and what do you see? 

Sadler's Wells, oh dear Mr Cowie, better get your coat.

A cricket match at the Oval! Better get your coat Mr Murray. What, you already have, and you found a big fat cheque in the pocket! It's that cheque which Mr Mustard is trying to find the size of and Barnet Council are being coy about ( even though Robert Rams recently wrote "Barnet has nothing to hide" ) . They are now talking to the Information Commissioner about it and doubtless in the end they will have to tell Mr Mustard.

A football ticket for Pam Wharfe. Now I know that this comment will cause huge trouble but it just has to be said. If that was a ticket for Barnet FC there isn't a problem (Mr Mustard is only jesting - he has been to Underhill but the rules do say prestige and he didn't even get a seat - that isn't a prestige event - sorry Bees - pleased to see you out of the relegation zone though - Barnet FC blog coming next) but if it was for a top of the table team then it is a breach of the rules. So 28 August 2010 was a Saturday and the premier league fixtures were these. If you saw Ms Wharfe at Chelsea or Tottenham then get her coat for her, its a red card for the interim Director of EPR.

Who are C&G Properties anyway? Well, C&G Properties Ltd (not plc per the C&G website) is, per companies house, a dormant company but its part of the  Cavendish & Gloucester Plc stable.

Here is a link to a development they are doing in Mr Mustard's parish, off Park Road, a cul-de-sac behind the police station. He popped along and took a look at it. This development is by M25 Securities Ltd, one of the C&G group.

Planning permission was granted in December 2007 under ref N14947F/07 ( link here ) for 14 houses for sale and 93 flats many of which were social housing. This was granted subject to a S106 contribution split into 3 staged payments and a monitoring contribution of £16,500

The £16,500 should have been paid within 28 days of any material work commencing. That payment is well overdue. 2 whole blocks of flats had been built by 2009.

The 3 stage payments were £102,500 for Education & Libraries, £115,000* for local highway improvements and £110,000 for improving parks and open spaces. It makes sense to make them different amounts and then payments don't get confused with each other. *£114,525 had been paid as at mid-October 2011.

The three stage payments were due as follows:

3.2.1 one third payable on the completion of Blocks 1 and 2
3.2.2 one third payable on the completion of Blocks 3 and houses on plots 1-14
3.2.3 one third payable on completion of Block 4 (St James' Court) and houses on plots 47-65

In August 09 the plans changed and a new application was submitted. The number of this is B/03161/09 ( you can look at all the documents here ). I have extracted the most interesting document below in the box. The planning statement is why the applicant thinks they should be granted planning permission.

Planning Statement About Park Rd Development

The usual reason cited for the change is the new economic circumstances. Barnet Council are susceptible to this appeal to the pocket. I once watched in horror as Cllr Cornelius deferred an already overdue £1m on the Choices for Grahame Park S106 contribution despite the developer having several £million in the bank. Property developers are big boys. The council should stand firm with them. The S106 is just another cost of development which they should put proper funding in place for.

According to Mouseprice.com ( and Mr Mustard's buying and selling ) average house prices in EN5 have risen 6.17% in the last 5 years and the UK average is a fall of 2.15%. Time that the council stopped listening to developers bleating on.

Back to the box above. Take a look at:

Para 1.2 and 1.4 say less units will be built, down from 107 to 99 but the developer is still keen. Of course they are, that's how developers make money, by developing.

Para 1.7 shows how the profits will arrive. Less flats and more houses for sale.

Jump now to the last page and para 5.40. It is clear that the developer expected the S106 contribution to change and upwards is the only logical direction. I cannot see from the planning papers that it did but from the S106 spreadsheet that I was sent I can see that there is now mention of 33 houses so the new scheme was applied to the old date and reference ( it's a good job that bloggers can work these things out ).

Mr Mustard walked around the top half of the site. The blocks of flats and houses accessed from the upper main entrance are complete. The lower section is well advanced.

good views but small bedrooms
So there we have it. Barnet Council didn't collect the £16,500 when work started and the building inspector knew because he has to visit often. Does he talk to whoever collects the S106 payments which would be sensible? In fact they should probably sit in the same room so that information flows naturally.

I don't suppose Pam Wharfe checked whether C&G owed Barnet Council any money before she accepted their hospitality or that she discussed overdue payments at half time. Anyway, now that I have pointed it out and as she knows them so well Mrs Wharfe will doubtless get C&G on the phone and get the money in very soon. It would help the borough whose budget is so tight. What the heck they have been doing in EPR to not collect all this S106 money Mr Mustard has no idea. If you haven't collected it you can't spend it.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. I just cannot understand why any senior officer would take such hospitality. We must demand a full investigation of these declarations to see if any misconduct has occurred, and if so the offending officers must be disciplined.

    And who had that croissant?


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