KINGSTON Liberal Democrats have been accused by the leader of Kingston’s opposition of being ‘dishonest’, after local senior Lib Dem WYN EVANS was found to be lobbying behind the scenes to get a high-rise tower block next to Kingston Station approved.
Evans, who was a senior campaign volunteer for the Monica Harding campaign in Esher and Walton in last year’s General Election, now runs Shared Voice Limited, a Surbiton-based company that engages in property lobbying.
Together with fellow director Cherry Norton, who also worked for the Harding Liberal Democrat campaign, as social media manager, the firm is aggressively targeting young people in Kingston with several advertisements in recent weeks, in a sly attempt to boost letters of support for the controversial planning application immediately adjacent to the station in the town centre.
In the advertisement, the Just Build Homes campaign claims ‘The usual minority of existing homeowners are saying ‘NO’’ to the proposed high-rise at 16-18 Richmond Road, and falsely claims that Kingston Council have said “Kingston needs to build 1,500 homes every year.” The document that Just Build Homes refer to when making this claim in fact refer to central government’s assessment of need – a figure disputed by both the current administration and also the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
In a separate Tweet, Evans’ campaign made ageist remarks against individuals who fought against overdevelopment elsewhere in the country.
This comes shortly after the Liberal Democrat administration in Kingston were accused by a local residents’ group of wanting to ‘silence’ residents in planning, after their Head of Planning Transformation at Kingston Council was caught in a recording praising the lack of planning meetings during the COVID pandemic.
In addition to his role as Monica Harding’s campaign manager, Evans served as a Kingston Councillor for six years, as well as having worked for the Kingston Liberal Democrat council office as a researcher, working for Liberal Democrat leaders including Derek Osbourne and Roger Hayes.
As well as founding his new lobbing firm Shared Voice, Evans is also Managing Director of property lobbying firm Forty Shillings, which worked on securing planning approval for the 18-storey ‘Old Post Office’ application now being built in the town centre.
Evans’ past employees at Forty Shillings include Liberal Democrat Surbiton Councillor, Sam Foulder-Hughes (above, bottom left).
Councillor Kevin Davis, Leader of the Opposition, has urged the Kingston Liberal Democrats to come clean on their links with property lobbyists, saying: “We have known for some time that the Lib Dems can be somewhat dishonest when it comes to their links with the development industry.
“I work with developers myself but would never imagine promoting any scheme in Kingston because it would dishonest to mix council business with private business.
“It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to come clean on there links to developers and publish the details of every meeting they have had with those promoting skyscrapers for the borough. What are they scared of?”
In response to a request for comment, a Lib Dem Guildhall spokesperson appeared to confirm that administration councillors were engaged in behind the scenes lobbying meetings with developers claiming that the Localism Act “has given councillors much more freedom to engage in pre-application discussions”.
They went on to dismiss claims of a lack of probity by saying “the Administration is fully aware of and committed to the need to maintain the highest standards regarding member involvement in the planning process.”
Michael Hantman, a spokesperson from Shared Voice, who are running the ‘Just Build Homes’ campaign, said: “Just Build Homes is a cross party, national campaign, making the case for more housing across the UK. We started in Kingston because I’ve lived here for many years, and I know what it’s like to try and get on the housing ladder locally.
“We are here to give a voice to first time buyers, because they have just as much right to a say in the planning process as objectors.
“The Government’s own assessment of the housing gap in Kingston is we need to be building 1,500 homes a year.”
CORRECTION NOTICE: The Enquirer have been informed by a spokesperson of Shared Voice Limited that Wyn Evans was not a paid staffer of the Monica Harding campaign in the General Election of 2019, but rather a ‘senior volunteer’.