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Housing developers’ secret lobbying revealed

The UK’s biggest housebuilders have been lobbying cabinet ministers to introduce a planning clause that would boost their business prospects, The Guardian reports.

Documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, exposed the chiefs of housing firms, including Barratt, Bovis and Redrow, who put the pressure on ministers to introduce a planning policy that would mean the default answer to applications would be “yes”.

Ministers did indeed include the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” in the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is due to come into force next spring, the Guardian’s Robert Booth says.

The newspaper reports that in June 2010, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) demanded the presumption in a letter that was read by Chancellor George Osborne, the communities secretary Eric Pickles, the business secretary Vince Cable and the ministers for housing and planning, Grant Shapps and Greg Clark.

The builders stressed that the letter was “private” and that they had no intention to “release it to the press”.

While the government says the planning reforms will drive economic growth and increase housing supply, conservationists claim the clause represents a green light for development at almost any cost.

Now the government faces criticism not just because of the fact that it let builders shape policy but also because three of the four people appointed to an advisory panel on the NPPF had links to the house construction.

Police forces invest thousands of pounds in PR

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that while police budgets are being slashed, ten police forces have invested an extra £400,000 on spin doctors and PR officers. The Daily Mirror reports the biggest increase in media spending came from the West Midlands Police that from £151,000 went on to spend £1,437,000.

One camera for every seven students in the most surveillance-intense UK School

The Sunday Times reports King’s Heath Boys’ maths and computing college in Birmingham is by far the school with the most cameras in the country. The comprehensive school has 86 cameras – one for every seven students – installed in classrooms and corridors, to combat burglaries and vandalism.

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