Press release 08th Apr 2022

May elections: Parties urged to adopt 10-point anti-corruption plan to prevent impropriety in planning

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Related Publication

Permission Accomplished


This report focusses on specific corruption risks in major planning decisions, an area where there is often a large amount of money at stake. It is also very contentious, with many new developments resulting in a net loss of social and genuinely affordable housing, which in many areas are in short supply.

To understand what could undermine openness in the planning process and what local authorities are doing to stop this, we have collected evidence from across England. Although there are some examples of good practice, generally the results make for a worrying read.

Unminuted, closed-door meetings with developers and excessive hospitality undoubtedly undermine confidence in the planning process, yet too many local authorities have weak rules to stop this from happening. Even fewer councils have control measures for major conflicts of interest, with far too many decision-makers also working for developers on the side. Moreover, when councillors behave badly, there are no clear or meaningful sanctions available to councils that could act as an effective deterrent against serious misconduct by them or others in the future.

To address these issues we propose ten practical solutions, none of which are beyond the means of those who need to implement them. All reinforce existing guidance and good practice recommended by anti-fraud and corruption initiatives here and internationally. Some even reflect existing practice in particular parts of the UK, such as Scotland.

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April 8, 2022 – London Boroughs need higher standards to prevent impropriety in major planning decisions, anti-corruption organisation Transparency International UK said today.  

The UK chapter of the global ethics watchdog is calling on all political parties to adopt a 10-point plan to ensure integrity in the planning process ahead of May’s local elections. 

The plan includes measures that would impose tougher rules on gifts and hospitality to councillors, a ban on councillors holding planning-related positions if they also have outside jobs as lobbyists, and greater transparency around those seeking to influence major planning decisions.  

Read the 10-point plan here

These changes would be relatively inexpensive, easy for local authorities to implement and would greatly improve transparency and strengthen oversight of the planning process to ensure decisions are taken in the public interest. 

Transparency International UK’s research has highlighted how local authorities across England lack essential safeguards to prevent corruption in the planning process. Our Permission Accomplished report identified 13 major cases across 16 local authorities in England involving serious alleged or proven breaches of codes of conduct or undue influence exerted over planning processes. These allegations related to over £5 billion worth of developments and more than 10,000 new housing units.  


Planning issues in London over recent years have included: 


Rose Zussman, Policy Manager at Transparency International UK, said: 

“It’s nearly two years since we raised the alarm about councils’ weak safeguards against impropriety in planning, and yet many have failed to take action that would protect the public interest. From Westminster to Tower Hamlets, we’ve seen boroughs blighted by scandals that are completely avoidable if only they had the right policies in place. Continued inertia will no doubt lead to further scandal, which will do nothing for trust in regeneration schemes and risks undermining billions of pounds of investment. 

“Before voters go to the polls in May, we are calling on candidates to take this opportunity to commit to making major planning decisions more transparent and accountable. While our recommendations are not a silver bullet, they would represent a significant improvement on the measures currently in place across the capital.” 


Notes to editors: 

Our Permission Accomplished report detailed how individuals and companies may seek to corrupt major planning decisions through generous gifts and hospitality, lobbying key members in secretive closed-door meetings, and hiring serving councillors with inside knowledge to help secure development consents. 

These risks are compounded by weak safeguards against major conflicts of interest, such as councillors working for developers on the side, combined with a lack of meaningful sanctions to deter misconduct. 

Transparency International UK assessed 50 councils in England with planning responsibilities for housing and scored them on how well they manage corruption risks using a scale of 0 (poor) to 100 (meets good practice). Nine of these were London Boroughs. 

·         All showed significant room for improvement, with an average score of just 38 out of 100 

·         84 per cent of these councils scored less than 50 

·         More than half scored under 40, indicating worrying gaps in corruption safeguards