4 December 2019
Planning permission for the controversial housing estate of 165 properties on publicly-owned greenfield land known as Crossways, outside East Cowes, has been applied for by 'iWight Developments'. New research by the Isle of Wight Green Party has discovered that there is no such registered company or partnership with this name. The iWight Developments website lists no company or contact details, and its domain registration is private.
Phone calls to the premium-rate number featured on a leaflet produced in the name of iWight Developments are answered by Manchester PR agency Social Communications Group, which has declined to say if iWight Developments is a real company. Callers are invited to look up 'Public Sector PLC', a company which claims that it enables "value uplift from public sector owned property assets" via limited liability partnerships with local authorities.
Despite the Public Sector PLC website featuring projects including housing schemes, office blocks and industrial estates built by "partnerships with councils for over 10 years", and a reception which included local authority representatives at the House of Lords in November 2017, Companies House records show Public Sector PLC filed dormant company accounts from 2008 to 2019. One of the current directors of Public Sector PLC is the company BV Strategies Ltd, which also having filed dormant accounts every year since 2008, ceased to exist in July 2019 after being dissolved.
Another of the companies registered at the same London address is PSP Facilitating Ltd, which has been in partnership with the Isle of Wight Council as PSP Isle of Wight LLP since 2015. There are more than twenty similar limited liability partnerships with local councils the length of England, from Dorset to Gateshead. Financial statements for PSP Facilitating Ltd for the year ended 30th April 2018 state that it is a wholly owned subsidiary of another company, BV Strategies (2007) Ltd, and that the ultimate controlling party is Cabot Square Partners Holding Limited, registered in Guernsey. Crown dependencies including Guernsey keep company ownership details private and are the subject of the UK Government's Treasury Sub-Committee inquiry into tax avoidance and evasion.
Green Party spokesperson Vix Lowthion commented. "Our MP says he wants to reduce house building on the Island, but look at what his government is allowing in East Cowes. The Council's less than transparent partnership with an offshore-registered developer was formed when Bob Seely was a county councillor, and it is the Conservatives who are selling us these overcrowded private housing estates built on green land which already belongs to us. We know that there is a dire shortage of decent affordable housing on the Island, but this scheme is not going to deliver that. And if you think Crossways is bad, look at what's planned for the huge area of farmland north of Camp Hill prison, fifteen times this size."
East Cowes resident and Isle of Wight Green Party campaigns officer Cameron Palin added: "It's not right that the Council is handing our greenfield land to who knows who, when it is also the planning authority with the power to give the green light to these very poorly-designed schemes. The draft Island Planning Strategy says that Crossways is suitable for 75 houses, so how come the Council is involved in a scheme for more than double that number, with only a minority being defined as 'affordable'? Our town needs jobs and genuinely affordable housing for local people that can't get mortgages, not another expansion into the countryside."