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CABE man in 'conflict of interest' claim

A CABE staffer who is also a member of Hackney's planning committee is facing a 'conflict of interest' accusation after becoming involved in a massively contentious planning application.

There have been calls for Darren Parker, a member of CABE's enabling team, to face a conduct committee hearing over the role he played in approving the Arup Associates project for Hackney ( in the foreground of the image above).

The controversy was sparked off after a former Tory councillor wrote to Hackney's chief executive calling for action to be taken against Parker.

Parker's critics, who oppose the scheme on Dalston Lane, argue that he should have declared his employment with CABE at the beginning of the meeting, because the quango had produced a glowing design review of the scheme.

To make matters worse, Parker, a Labour councillor, was acting chairman of the planning committee at the time of the approval - ironically because the normal chairman had stepped down due to a conflict of interests - and was forced to use his deciding vote to force the application through.

The project has courted controversy for two main reasons: the fact that it reintroduces high-rise residential into the borough, and the fact that it involves the demolition of several historic buildings on the site.

When the London Development Agency-backed scheme is complete, it will feature a large-scale residential-dominated mixed-use project on the site in the deprived east London area.

But the scheme has faced militant opposition from local group OPEN Dalston, which is backed by former Conservative councillor Andrew Boff.

'I have written to the Hackney chief executive about this,' Boff said. 'As [Parker] is a CABE employee, this seems to be a blatant conflict of interests.

'I've asked them to review the case and get Parker in front of the standards committee.

'Now that this has come to light, they ought to withdraw the planning application, but I doubt that that will ever happen.

'I think that it is obvious Parker had an interest. I mean, imagine if he was expecting an appraisal with his boss at CABE the following day; how would it have looked to his boss if he'd voted against the advice

of his own organisation?

'I can't see a more clear case of conflict of interest than if your employer is presenting an argument and you are judging it,' Boff added.

But a spokeswoman for Hackney Council denied that there was a problem - because Parker works in enabling for CABE, not design review.

'I have spoken to the borough solicitor about this,' she said. 'As it wasn't a prejudicial interest, we don't see it as a problem.

'[Parker] might have declared a private interest but he chose not to,' she added.

Neither CABE nor Parker was available for comment.

by Ed Dorrell

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