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Question of time

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So 10 Downing Street thinks the Wafic Said Oxford planning permission story is, and I quote, 'a barrel-load of bollocks', and that it would be extremely unusual for Prime Ministerial intervention in the planning process. This is probably true, as there has been little need for intervention when Prince Charles is around. On the other hand, it has been known. Let me take you back to the 1950s and the days of the Harold Macmillan government. A permission was given for what was then the first tall building in the West End, the Hilton Hotel, looming over Hyde Park and ushering in the era of Westminster high-rises that that authority now so despises. A reliable source tells me that the permission was taken by the Cabinet, on the grounds that UK plc needed the currency (this was post-Suez), and that encouraging rich Americans - and their hotel chains - to come here could only do good. One question remains: if Downing Street had no interest in the Jeremy Dixon.Edward Jones/Said scheme, why was it so interested in the timing?

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