Scaring the living daylights out of people - the local lobby and the failure of democracy

Darren mail at
Sat Apr 27 00:14:59 BST 2013

Anna Minton
March 2013

Executive summary:
This report documents the abuses which characterise the operation of 
local democracy in many parts
of the UK with intimidation, bullying or conflicts of interest common 
practice among lobbying
companies, developers and local authorities promoting contentious 
Examples include:
 The lobbying company campaigning for high speed rail that sets out to 
intimidate local
opposition, aiming to “shit them up”.
 The HS2 campaign is an example of ‘astroturfing’, a campaign which is 
set up to give the
impression that it is a grassroots campaign, although it is in fact run 
by lobbyists.
 The lobbying company boasts of its military tactics and how it tackles 
local opposition by creating
a ‘mini army’ to ‘fight them on every street corner.’
Consultation on the planned demolition of large parts of central London, 
including the Heygate
Estate in south London, the Carpenters Estate in East London and the 
Earls Court project in
West London, is widely derided by residents as a ‘sham’.
Consultations around the country, from London to East Devon, Liverpool 
and Aberdeenshire are
dismissed by residents, with many of the companies carrying out 
consultations on contentious
schemes employed by the developers of those schemes.
Residents claim that a misleading PR narrative on the part of lobbyists, 
developers and local
authorities mistakenly depicts their homes and estates as sink estates 
with high levels of crime.
The revolving door between Southwark Council and developer Lend Lease 
has seen a number of
high profile council employees move from the council to work for Lend Lease.
In Southwark, the confidential agreement with the developer – kept 
secret by the council and
revealed by mistake - shows that having spent £44 million pulling down 
the estate, Southwark will
receive only £50 million for the 22 acre estate from developer Lend 
Lease – far below market
value, while just 79 of the 2,535 new homes will be social housing.
In Aberdeenshire Donald Trump’s plans for a world class golf course on a 
specially protected site
caused a political storm after the Scottish Government’s unprecedented 
decision to override the
council’s refusal and ‘call in’ the application.
Following the Scottish Government’s intervention and the granting of 
planning permission, it
emerged that the revolving door between Aberdeenshire Council and the 
Trump camp witnessed
the council working closely with Trump’s lawyers to discuss the 
compulsory purchase of local
Throughout local residents have been subject to extreme intimidation and 
harassment and
politicians opposing the development have been vilified in the local media.
In East Devon allegations of conflicts of interest between the council 
and local landowners have
led to protest marches of thousands campaigning against ‘pre-judged’ 
decisions and secret
meetings pertaining to controversial development schemes.
Echoing the experience in Aberdeenshire, local residents protesting 
against development report
that the local media has run campaigns against them.
Allegations of dirty tricks on the part of developers and lobbyists 
acting for them include fake
letter writing campaigns and the use of front companies to obscure the 
real intention behind
planning applications.
The public interest is the justification for the planning system but 
these routine abuses, which reflect
the failure of democracy, are undermining the public interest. A 
redefinition of the public interest in
planning, which places far greater account on social value, is needed.

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