There are many positives things about being a resident of Westminster. However one of the more depressing things is our City’s position as global hub for shady financial dealings, where international oligarchs and property companies based off-shore with unknown investors are able to take advantage of the lax rules to turn our local property market into their own private piggy bank. As well as supporting dodgy regimes around the world these financial flows drive up house prices in many parts of Westminster and have led homes in the heart of our city being left empty for much of the year.
The Government has been promising to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership of land and property since 2016 but as yet has not been able to find the parliamentary time to implement it. This doesn’t mean that that Westminster Council should sit back and wait for the Government to take action. In the statutory parts of the planning process the Council is legally obliged to provide a service to all applicants, however other services are such as planning performance agreements and pre-application advice are discretionary.
Westminster Labour has called on the Council to withhold optional planning services from applicants who won’t reveal who ultimately owns the property. Labour Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Making the property sector in Westminster more transparent is not only the right thing to do as part of the UK playing a more positive role in the world but it is about making the housing market work better for Westminster residents and ensuring housing in Westminster is being used as people’s homes”.