An estate agent has doubled down on criticism of his unusual methods to influence the planning authority in his local town who are due to decide on a newbuild scheme.
Richard James, who runs both an eponymous estate agency in Swindon, recently applied for planning permission to build 350 homes on a rough patch of land by the railway line that runs through the town.
Some 200 locals made largely negative comments about the proposed development which is being developed by a company that James is also a director of.
But local councillor Junab Ali, a Labour ward councillor and former Swindon mayor, has gone public after some 30 positive public comments about the development lodged with planner came largely from staff at his agency, as well as a mortgage broker the company uses.
“It’s bang out of order for me and it shouldn’t have been allowed,” says Ali.
“Fourteen years of being on the council and I’ve been on-and-off the planning committee and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
But James (pictured) is unrepentant, telling the Swindon Advertiser that: “It’s no secret in my business or in my network of friends and acquaintances, that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Swindon.
“I’ve talked passionately to many people over the last five years about this project and what I believe are the benefits to our town, our businesses and our local economy.
“The business leaders I have spoken to about this scheme all agree on one thing, a tired town centre does little to help them attract and recruit talent to Swindon despite a wealth of well-paid and skilled jobs on offer.
“The fact that some have made the effort to support an ambitious regeneration scheme in the town centre should not therefore be surprising.”