ROBERT Jenrick has said that he does not want to be the subject of “innuendo” and “false allegations” over claims he "unlawfully" approved a £30 million development by a Tory donor.

The Housing Minister allegedly approved a controversial £1 billion east London development proposed by a firm owned by Conservative Party donor and publishing tycoon Richard Desmond.

It involves turning the former Westferry Printworks — which was the Daily Express printworks and is now owned by Desmond's company Northern & Shell — into 1500 homes.

Jenrick signed that off after the local council and independent Planning Inspectorate both ruled it should be refused because it lacked affordable housing and clashed with local conservation policy.

Jenrick's decision was made on the eve of a local levy change that would have required the property owner to pay £30m-£50m more to the council.

The move is aimed at improving services and mitigating the impact of development on the area.

However, Jenrick's actions meant Desmond's firm avoided having to hand the cash over.

The council began legal action in March over alleged bias in the timinig of the decision and asked the High Court ot force the hand-over of government documents on the matter.

Jenrick then agreed his determination had been "unlawful by reason of apparent bias" and planning permission should be cancelled and handled by a different minister.

READ MORE: SNP urge Tory Housing Secretary to step down over donor row

Labour is using an opposition day debate in the Commons on Wednesday to stage a vote requiring the Government to release all correspondence involving ministers and their special advisers concerning the Westferry development.

With a Conservative majority of 80, the Government is unlikely to be defeated, but it represents a further opportunity for the opposition to heap pressure on Jenrick – who denies any impropriety – over an issue which will not go away.

Labour said the timing of the planning approval – just a day before a new community infrastructure levy came into force – would have saved Desmond’s Northern and Shell company up to £50 million.

The party said Jenrick also overruled his advisers to reduce the amount of affordable housing required in the development, potentially saving Mr Desmond a further £106 million.

Responding to an intervention by Labour MP Toby Perkins asking why he hadn’t released the documents relating to the Westferry development earlier, Jenrick told the Commons: “Firstly there’s already a lot of documents in the public domain and I’ll come on to discuss that.

“The reason for my decision are set out clearly in the decision letter.”

Jenrick added: “Transparency matters, openness matters and settling this matter matters because I certainly don’t want to be the subject of the innuendo and the false accusations that the Opposition are choosing to peddle.”

READ MORE: Robert Jenrick watched housing development promo on Richard Desmond's phone

Labour’s Steve Reed asked why Jenrick did not ask to be re-seated somewhere else as soon as he realised he was sitting next to Desmond, nor immediately recuse himself from involvement in the decision.

He said: “It’s very hard to imagine the issue of Westferry did not crop up during the three hours or so that the Secretary of State must have sat next to the owner of Northern & Shell and three of his most senior executives.”

Reed also said Jenrick “allowed the applicant” for the project to reduce the proportion of affordable and social housing in the scheme from 35% to the 21% “preferred by Desmond”, adding: “According to Tower Hamlets Council, that decision saved Desmond a further £106 million.”

The Labour frontbencher asked why Jenrick “overruled professionals” on this matter, adding: “Without a credible answer the suspicion arises once again that the Secretary of State was bending over backwards to do favour for his billionaire dinner date.”

Jenrick said it is “not unusual” for ministers to reach different conclusions than that of local authorities.

He told MPs: “As honourable members will be aware, the Secretary of State’s role in deciding called-in planning applications and recovered appeals is very long established.

“The vast majority of planning decisions are rightly determined at a local level by local planning authorities. However, Parliament has created provision where a small proportion of cases are determined by ministers.

“The cases that fall to ministers are, by their nature, highly contentious, frequently very complex and sometimes very subjective. There’s no escaping that reality.

“It’s not unusual for ministers to come to a different conclusion to that of a local authority, neither is it unusual, as has been said, for ministers to disagree with the recommendations of planning inspectors.

“I say that with no disrespect to the brilliant men and women who work in the Planning Inspectorate.”

Jenrick criticised Tower Hamlets Council for the time taken to consider the application made by Westferry Developments.

He said: “In July 2018, Westferry Developments submitted a planning application for a large development comprising 1,500 homes including affordable homes, shops and office space.

“The case was with Tower Hamlets Council for eight months and over this period, despite having five determination meetings arranged, they failed to make a decision.

“It is disappointing that the council failed to meet its statutory requirements but it isn’t surprising.

“In the last five years, there have been 30 planning applications which have been decided at appeal because of non-determination by this council.”