How many times does Caroline Nokes MP have to embarrass the PM, mislead constituents and break the law before she resigns?
SUNDAY TIMES – SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2017
MINISTER BROKE PLANNING - CAROLINE NOKES URGED TO QUIT OVER “MISLEADING” APPLICATION FOR STABLES
Caroline Nokes, the Cabinet Office minister, is facing calls to resign after planning laws were broken in obtaining permission for a new set of stables and a double garage at her constituency home.
A planning application to develop her £1m family house on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire was submitted in the married name of her sister, who was identified as the property’s owner.
The form was submitted in the name of Elisabeth Bellingham and included a “certificate of ownership” signed on Bellingham’s behalf by Nokes’s agent.
Land Registry documents, however, show that Nokes, the MP for Romsey and Southampton North, has been the sole owner of the property since her former husband Marc was removed from the title following their divorce.
A senior partner in planning law at a City firm said any such application has to declare the identity of the property’s true owner to comply with the law. Anyone who submits a false certificate of ownership can be found guilty of an offence and face a fine of up to £5,000.
John Mann, a Labour MP, called on Nokes to resign. “If she is not identified as the owner on a planning application for her property, she will obviously have to resign as a minister. Anyone can put in a planning application but you can’t mislead, particularly as an MP.”
Nokes, who has criticised property developers for manipulating planning laws, split from her husband after she was caught cheating with a young Tory councillor weeks after being elected as an MP in June 2010. Following her divorce, Nokes redeveloped her constituency home, including the conversion of an existing garage to provide a home for her parents, Veronica and Roy Perry, both in their mid-seventies. Her father is the Tory leader of Hampshire county council.
Don Jerrard, a local councillor, said as a local politician, Nokes’s application would have been “more likely to have been referred to the local planning committee” if she had been identified as the owner. He said he did not believe the application “for all the works would have been approved”.
The New Forest National Park authority said it would “not be in the public interest to spend money on a prosecution and we consider the matter closed”. It added that there had been “no gain to the family as a result”.
The minister and her father declined to comment. Nokes’s agent hung up when asked about his involvement.