Southwark's gamekeepers turned poachers

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Last week's international property fair MIPIM wasn't just for developers and councils, it was also for those who help developers lobby councils. Four Communications is one such company. It says it offers teams of experts who "provide support at every stage of the planning, marketing and communications process" and helps to secure "political support in the face of public opposition".

Extract from MIPIM attendees list

Who are these 'experts' able to magically gain the 'political support' of council members in developments facing public opposition? Well, who better than council members themselves?

Four Communications was founded in 2001 by former (Labour) Southwark council leader Jeremy Fraser. On its payroll and list of shareholders are former (Labour) Lambeth council leader Jim Dickson (who is also a sitting Lambeth councillor) and Southwark's former (Labour) Cabinet Member for Regeneration Steve Lancashire.[^1] It counts amongst its employees Florence Eshalomi, Lambeth's former deputy Cabinet member for Housing and current GLA assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark. Also on the payroll are Hackney Councillors Alan Laing and Karen Alcock - deputy Mayor with responsibility for housing and commercial property.

The South Bank's King's Reach Tower provides a good example of how Four Communications' lobbying service works. In 2010, Developer CIT employed Four to 'help' get permission for its controversial 41 storey Blackfriars development. This is how Four's 4 step lobbying process was implemented:

Extract from page 6 of King's Reach SCI produced by Four Communications

Every major planning application requires a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) to demonstrate that the developer has consulted with the local community and that its plans have public support. Four has helped developers obtain permission and produced SCIs for an impressive list of (social housing-free) developments in Southwark. The table below shows a number of developments in the borough where Four Communications have provided a Statement of Community Involvement:

| Neo Bankside | Sampson & Ludgate House | Elephant One | SouthBank Tower | The Shard | | ------------ | ------------ |-------------|------------ | | | | | | | 217 Homes
0 Social rented | 490 Homes
0 Social rented | 646 Homes
0 Social rented | 193 Homes
0 Social rented | http://www.w4mp.. |

| St. George's Wharf | One Blackfriars | '251 London' | Strata Tower | The Quill | | ------------ | ------------ |-------------|------------ | | | | | | | http://fourcomm.. | 274 Homes
0 Social rent | 270 Homes
0 Social rent | 408 Homes
0 Social rent | 119 Homes
0 Social rent |

Another working example is Strata Tower, which shows what a sham Four's SCI consultation process is: its consultation showed that it had consulted just 13 people - hardly evidence of widespread public support. Unsurprisingly most of these agreed to the vague and narrowly-framed questions aimed at restricting any kind of meaningful consultation:

Page 19 of Strata Tower SCI

The planning application was duly nodded through and Strata Tower - entirely without social rented housing but complete with useless wind turbines - was built.

Revolving doors

It is worth noting that the council's E&C regeneration partner Lend Lease, is absent from the list of Four's clients. That's because Lend Lease employs a different PR company called Quatro to handle PR for its developments. It's also worth noting that Quatro's Managing Director Paul Dimoldenberg, is a former senior Southwark council officer and current leader of the Labour group on Westminster city council.

Private Eye (issue 1380 - 25 Nov 2014)

Paul is just one of former Southwark Council officers and members who have shown that regeneration provides a wealth of opportunity - for those making use of its revolving doors..


[^1]: See pages 34 & 51 of the Southbank Tower SCI