Lobbying firm denies running ‘misleading’ planning campaign
BECG faces a PRCA probe – but the agency will mount a ‘robust defence’ of its actions.
A leading property lobbying firm has been accused of distributing “false and misleading information” as part of a planning campaign in south London.
Built Environment Communications Group faces an investigation by the PRCA, following a complaint by Lambeth Council.
But the agency insists that its communications for private developer Be Living have been accurate and consistent with Lambeth Council’s Local Plan Review 2017.
BECG was previously known as Remarkable Group but recently rebranded in a bid to underline its status as the largest specialist communications agency for the sector.
The firm was recently brought in by Be Living which wants to build homes for rent and a new “work hub for small businesses in the arts, creative and tech industries” on an old Network Rail site.
Matthew Bennett, cabinet member for planning, regeneration and jobs at Lambeth Council, claims that the agency has mispresented the council’s position on the site. In particular, Bennett is railing against claims the authority intends to build a waste or recycling facility on the site.
A website bearing the developer’s branding states: “If you don’t speak up you could be living on top of an industrial area whether you like it or not.” Bennett also claims that BECG has leafletted residents and hosted a public meeting warning that the authority intends to build a waste or recycling facility on the Knollys Yard site in Tulse Hill.
Bennett told Inside Housing magazine: “This is a situation whereby a private developer has instructed a PR company to instigate a campaign, distributing false and misleading information to residents, in order to completely misrepresent a council-led local consultation.
“We have written to local residents in order to clarify what the consultation is about, and we have submitted a complaint to the PRCA, the governing body for public relations organisations, regarding the spread of inaccurate and purposefully misleading materials.”
But a spokesperson for BECG told PAN that the firm disputed the councillor's claims and accused the council of failing to engage in constructive conversation.
He said: "BCCG is surprised that the council has taken this course of action and will be liaising with the PRCA to provide a robust defence to the Council’s claims that BECG has fallen short of the PRCA’s Professional Standards Charter.”
"All BECG communications regarding the potential usage of the Knollys Yard site have been consistent with Lambeth Council’s Local Plan Review 2017 and are therefore accurate and designed to add to the debate in the local community about the future of this site.
"Alongside our client, we would prefer to be having a constructive conversation with the Council on the respective merits of our arguments but, despite approaches from ourselves, this dialogue has been turned down by the council."
A PRCA spokesperson said: "We can confirm that we have received a complaint against BECG, filed by Lambeth Council. BECG has been notified of this. We will now begin the process set out in the PRCA Professional Charter and Code of Conduct."