Under fire housing secretary Robert Jenrick was urged by civil servants to block a controversial £1bn East London housing development by Tory donor Richard Desmond before he approved it.
Jenrick went on to ignore the advice of his mandarins and instead reversed the Tower Hamlets Council’s decision to reject the planning application.
The Sunday Times has also revealed that Jenrick texted and met with Desmond, but did not tell his civil servants – a potential violation of the ministerial code of conduct.
A Whitehall source told The Times that Jenrick was warned by civil servants that the development had a 70-80 per cent chance of being judicially reviewed, and that it would violate planning rules.
Jenrick ignored the warnings and pressed on with the project, granting it approval just a day before a new tax came in, which would have cost Desmond up to £50m.
The new revelations add to the growing list of links between Jenrick and the developer in the lead-up to the controversial decision, which Labour has likened to “cash for favours”.
Speaking about Jenrick’s approval of the Westferry development, the Whitehall source said “we had to get with the programme or go away”.
The housing secretary was forced to pull approval for the development last month, after he admitted the decision was “unlawful” on grounds of “apparent bias”.
It was revealed earlier this month that Desmond sat on a table with Jenrick at a Conservative party fundraiser shortly before the development was approved in January.
Desmond also donated £12,000 to the Tories just two weeks after Jenrick gave his approval.
The prominent Tory donor is also said to have ties with Boris Johnson and his senior adviser Sir Eddie Lister.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said:“A full account has been sent to the HCLG select committee by the secretary of state and the department has published relevant documents online. We have nothing further to add.”
A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said: “The government’s position on society lottery rules has been set out by DCMS and the Gambling Commission, following open public consultation by both.”