Einstein is reported to have expressed frustration at other leading scientists when he defined: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Councils have paid vast sums of money to "independent" consultant GVA (formerly GVA Grimley) to compile retail and capacity studies for market towns in receipt of planning applications for the firm's own client Tesco, among others.
The planning consultant firms provided arguments that officers could use to justify recommendation for the elected members to grant permission in order to avoid defending costly court appeals, which the corporate Goliaths eventually win regardless.
Now, with local traders having lost market share, effectively annexed by officers' endorsement of the so-
GVA now re-
Not able to recognize their own failings, a market town throws another £40,000 away and commissions GVA to do another study in the hope that this will revive what the very firm has been actively plundering:-
The lowest common denominator? Greed.
And now, we ask whether NPPF system, which GVA's former Compulsory Purchase Specialist helped produce, neuters councils.
Absolutely sickening insanity.
What we pay GVA Grimley per month:-
And the contract goes to.... te dahh... GVA Grimley:-
DOVER District Council is on course to pay out £2 million to consultants in the space of three years.
"GVA, the UK's largest independent commercial property advisor, has appointed two experienced new members of staff to its teams in the North of England.
Dai Powell joins GVA's northern Planning, Development and Regeneration team as an associate and will be based across Leeds and Manchester, while Georgina Singleton join's the advisors' Manchester team as a senior consultant.
Formerly of Drivers Jonas Deloitte, Dai has broad development experience, including the co-
Dai has worked extensively across the Yorkshire property market acting for a range of public and private sector clients such as the Ministry of Defence, the NHS, local authorities, Government agencies, housing associations and land-
Georgina joins GVA from the Department of Communities and Local Government. She has acquired vast experience from working on the delivery of European Programmes in the North West and within the Land and Property team at the Regional Development Agency.
Among the projects Georgina has delivered with public and private sector partners are Liverpool Science Park, the Everyman Theatre and the North West Financial Engineering instruments.
Paul Manning, senior regional director for GVA's Leeds office, says: "We are committed to recruiting the best people who will provide an outstanding service to existing and future clients. By bringing Dai and Georgina into the fold with their vast experience, we're continuing to strengthen our northern teams to good effect."
Nationally GVA is spearheading a major expansion via company acquisitions to gain market share in niche areas. A recruitment drive in Leeds which has seen 19 appointments in the past year; supplemented by an organic growth programme, is serving to support that wider expansion process, and equally bolster our position in the Leeds and wider Yorkshire market. "
For the Ministry of Defence too.
Someone cleverer than I am said:-
"Is this not worth investigating given the firm's flat-
This site is priviledged to be able to display the writing of the learned investigator of planning irregularities -
Mr Rob Peters of GVA Grimley suggests putting political pressure on councillors to push through a school on a site contaminated with lead, arsenic and brown asbestos and none of the council officers at Stockport involved turned a hair at this suggestion!
GVA GRIMLEY LLP
Fees for Acquisition & Formal Valuation of Property.
Stockport Council paid GVA Grimley this.
"No 149 4WR . 21
PLANNING A NEW WORLD ORDER
On March 11, 2005, at Castle Douglas, the local planning officer recommended approval for a Tesco supermarket (and petrol station) to be built on the outskirts of town, placing full reliance on advice from ‘independent’ planning consultant GVA Grimley that because the local Co-
The officer’s partiality toward private firm Grimley – commissioned without tendering – became clear days later when it was discovered that the text ofthe fax did not contain the word “serious” anywhere. The open and transparent objectivity expected of local governance was undermined by the legal advisor’s injection of a weighted word in his statement to the elected members, despite repeated calls from councillors to be assured there was no conflict. Concerned over the relationship between business and public affairs, my own objection was strictly pro-
In the intervening period the local Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson – now Presiding Officer for the Scottish Parliament – had written to the Chief Executive of the council a letter endorsed by the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Conservative MP Peter Duncan, expressing concern over the impartiality of the council’s chosen consultant. ‘There is a serious danger of the public’s faith in the credibility of the whole public procedure being seriously undermined’, and continued: ‘That credibility is already under strain because of the fact that no minutes are taken of an Area Committee meeting and therefore no record of the actual questions and answers raised at the public meeting in Castle Douglas exists to better inform the members of the full Planning and Environment Committee when it meets to determine this application. ‘That situation is exacerbated by the fact that members of the public have no input to the full committee meeting…may I ask howyou intend to deal with these charges posing, as they do, a serious question mark over this important strategic development. I should tell you that I have also drawn these concerns to the attention of the Minister.’ On 5th May 2005, the general election unseated Peter Duncan. A few weeks later, a meeting with newly elected constituency Labour MP Russell Brown followed the accidental discovery of another case involving Tesco and Grimley at Berwick-
In his response Mr. Prescott observed‘it would seem that conflicts of interst are not uncommon’. Absent of any expression of concern, Mr. Prescott’s remark bordered on the complacent, so the Committee on Standards in Public Life was advised. Letters were also sent to Alistair Darling, then Secretary of State for Scotland, in Sept 05, and the reply indicated that planning issues north of theborder were for the Scottish Executive alone to determine. The response did not concede that such matters are in fact not fully devolved from Westminster control. In Scotland, the Minister for Communities Malcolm Chisholm (Lab) had received MSP’s concerns and his deputy Johann Lamont was issuing standard form letters to Mr. Fergusson and to Green MSP Chris Ballance, who had asked for the application to be called-
Mr. Slipper’s disclosure was noted through solicitors stating: ‘for the avoidance of any doubt... Mr. Slipper has in the course of his professional career been involved in meetings with Tesco, developers representing Tesco, consultants representing Tesco and ...involved in local authority planning advice where proposals have been made by Tesco’. He was supported by the opinion of a QC, and by other planning consultants, in a plea to the RTPI to consider the implications for the limited few: ‘Scotland is a small country. There are only a handful of Scottish planningconsultants expert in retail planning, if the RTPI find against... it could have far reaching consequences for the practice’. Apparently the membership wanted the Code to be flexible. Over three years have passed since the RTPI concluded its investigation, and still it is not known when the new advice, superseding the existing Code, will be circulated to endorse both the position of the member involved in the Castle Douglas case, and simultaneously prevent the same situation from recurring. But repeat it has, throughout the country, many times over.
Grimley also advised the local council in a Tesco application to build a supermarket in the town of Sheringham in Norfolk, where Lib Dem Norman Lamb is the constituency MP. Informed of the situation in Castle Douglas, Mr. Lamb, a solicitor by profession, responded, ‘I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever you are right in identifying a very clear conflict of interest in this situation… I am appalled at the treatment you appear to have received…’ Mr. Lamb also wrote to the RTPI: “I was horrified to read of the situation that GVA Grimley were in. There is an absolutely clear conflict of interest in both representing Tesco… and providing advice and assessments to local authorities in respect of planning applications by Tesco. … by investigating the matter and agreeing to publish new advice, indicates your institute agrees there is a need for absolute clarity in advice to your members about avoiding conflicts of interest’. And: ‘You appear to take the view that it is sufficient not to be engaged on both sides in any particular case. I do not accept this.’ Mr. Lamb was interviewed on R4's You and Yours and excerpts were played to the Appeal Reporter at Sheringham in 2008. The closing words on the tape recording are: ‘…there needs to be much more rigorous interpretation of Conflict of Interest… I don’t see any problem if the rule (Clause 4) was actually enforced properly”. Tesco’s Appeal at Sheringham was defeated although it is not known whether Mr. Lamb's opinion had any bearing on the decision.
Lobbying and the shaping of policy
A glance through Grimley’s web site reveals the centrality of their role in shaping government policy and its subsequent application. The company is retained as consultants to the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), providing advice to over 60 central government departments. ‘At a strategic level we have top level contacts with the relevant government departments’, declares their Lobbying page; ‘We have a close relationship with many influential stakeholders… that helps create a successful climate for planning applications’. News of their reappointment to the OGC for four more years contained a quote from their Head of Public Sector stating: ‘It allows us access to the whole of the public sector market whilst at the same time offering Customers the benefits…’ Rather than focus entirely on one particular firm, however, by examining Berwin Leighton Pasiner (BLP) it appears the situation is repeated. ‘We also continue to advise a large number of Government Departments and local authorities’. Their planning page describes ‘a team able to … exercise influence… we are able to offer specialist expertise… through a Parliamentary Agent… and strategic advice from a consultant who is a former Planning Inspector.’ The ‘Public Sector’ page lists legal services ‘to local Government clients, in particular… planning… On contentious matters we are adept at recognizing the relationship of the various limbs of Government and aware of the political landscape that shapes the decision making process’. Like Grimley, their client list includes Tesco.
A ‘corrupted‘ system
Herein lies the corruption of the system and the reason that officers who enjoy the delegated powers of Westminster instruction would be obliged to deny emphatically a conflict of interest where subsidiary level authority had commissioned the services of an adviser already sanctioned by Head Office. Further, set against the threat of appeal by powerful companies – and award of costs that cash-
A week prior to making his fateful comment that ‘conflicts of interest are not uncommon’, John Prescott made a keynote speech about sustainable development and clone towns in which he stated: ‘Across the country, retail is bringing jobs and life back to our town and city centres. And the leading firm of chartered surveyors, GVA Grimley, said recently that our planning policy is “already paying off”…‘Largely because of sustained economic growth…major retailers have moved to town centre locations.’ ‘Most of the major retailers understand the need for a proper balance in the planning system and equal treatmentand fairness – although I wonder sometimes if their lawyers share that view!’ Was Mr Prescott aware I wonder, that Grimley had occupied a fiduciary role helping to shape policy? “We’re encouraging local authorities to use compulsory purchase to assemble sites.” “Our reforms include changing the culture of planning, so that committees, officers and communities fight each other less.” It hasn’t worked.
‘Gradual erosion of ethical values’
In Nov 2005, Chris Goddard, reflecting the firm’s ethos as planning and regeneration partner at GVA Grimley, said the planning system was not for protecting one retailer against another. Clearly persuaded of the benefits of a significant client’s expansion plans, he stated, ‘It is a bit perverse to condemn Tesco and others for going into the high street when they are only responding to planning guidance’. How could other directors and partners in the firm cultivate within ranks an inner perspective of neutrality against the potential rewards, and yet not clash with colleagues’ ambitions? Can individual members of a corporate body divorce the prestigious client list which accompanies the professional into an obscure realm of fiduciary privilege ripe for plunder, and yet claim to act with independence for the public interest? The means to exert influence in ways that are almost invisible to the eye received attention over 10 years ago. The 3rd Lord Nolan recommendations for Local Government in 1997 should have addressed the warnings expressed at the start of chapter 5 Working with Others. They stated: ‘The opportunities for corruption are growing with the spiralling trend towards devolution of management responsibilities and greater direct provision of services by private sector organizations.’ And: ‘The gradual erosion of ethical values in day-
Nolan recommendation R19 states ‘every local authority should be required to draw up a code of conduct for officers’. How effective has thatbeen? Despite the Codes of C o r p o r a t e Governance in local councils, the buck stops with a mere charity, the RTPI, powerless to control its membership. Government’s failure to regulate directly the activities of private firms of planning consultants appointed through the OGC, preventing them from acting for local authorities in receipt of applications by the firm’s own clients, has created an irreconcilable disaster. Unless action is taken to prevent such a clear conflict of interest then the inescapable impression left will be of a sophisticated deception whose cunningarchitecture is the result of collusion between the largest companies and apolitical class who let it happen. ●
Embroiled in a lengthy planning battle, Donald Henry discovered a conflict of interest that robs communities of the power to control their own destinies; one that is unethical and Lord Nolan warned potentially corrupt.
Government’s failure to regulate directly the activities of planning consultants has created an irreconcilable disaster.
The means to exert influence in ways that are almost invisible to the eye received attention from Lord Nolan 10 years ago."
GVA Grimley are the actuaries for the Greater Manchester Pension fund. Please see the link opposing to a report on this.
Rob Peters, Partner, Planning, Development & Regeneration -
University Gate,Park Row, Bristol BS1 5UB
The man who suggested putting political pressure on Committee Members to pass the application to put 550 primary school children and 78 babies on to unremediated toxic waste!
CAPITAL SUPPLIES & SERVICES Sep-
Taylor Wimpey is client of QUOD planning.
QUOD is run by John Rhodes.
John Rhodes is ex GVA Compulsory Purchase Specialist in Manchester.
Rhodes and Taylor Wimpey were 2 of only 4 members that made up the Professional Advisory Group that produced the NPPF.
Other members included a local govt officer and token RSPB rep.
Need I say more?