Wednesday, 27 March 2013 18:00

New report: Scaring the living daylights out of people


In a Spinwatch report published today, Anna Minton examines allegations of dirty tricks, sham local consultations and a well-oiled revolving door between developers and councils. She also reveals how lobbyists set out to intimidate local opposition to the controversial HS2 high speed railway. 

Intimidation, bullying or conflicts of interest are common practice among lobbyists, developers and local authorities involved in pushing through contentious development such as HS2.

Scaring the living daylights out of people: the local lobby and the failure of democracy details case studies from around the country. The revelations include information about how lobbyists working for the Campaign for High Speed Rail set out to intimidate local opposition aiming “to shit them up”.

The report outlines how these tactics have implications for the way democratic debate develops in the UK, with these routine abuses, which reflect the failure of democracy, undermining the public interest.

It reveals allegations of dirty tricks on the part of developers and lobbyists acting for them, which include fake letter writing campaigns and the use of front companies to obscure the real intention behind planning applications.

And it highlights how the revolving door between councils and developers has seen a number of high profile council employees move from local authorities where they worked on contentious schemes to work for the developers of those schemes.

The consultation process on the planned demolition of large parts of central London, including the Heygate Estate in south London, the Carpenters Estate in East London and the Earls Court project in West London, is widely derided by residents as a ‘sham’. Meanwhile consultations around the country, from London to East Devon, Liverpool and Aberdeenshire are dismissed by residents, with many of the companies carrying out consultations on contentious schemes employed by the developers of those schemes.

The report also reveals the links between lobbying, PR and the media with local residents protesting against development reporting that local media has run campaigns against them. In Aberdeenshire, for example, local residents opposed to Donald Trump’s golf course development have been subject to alleged intimidation and harassment and politicians opposing the development were vilified in the local media.

Download the report [1.7mb pdf] 

Anna Minton

Anna Minton is a writer and journalist. She spent a decade in journalism, including a stint as a corporate reporter on the Financial Times, and is the winner of five international journalism awards. She is the author of Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the 21st Century City, (Penguin 2012)