Indigo Public Affairs

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Indigo Public Affairs is niche lobbying firm specialising in major regeneration projects throughout the UK and planning issues. It employs 30 people and has a network of offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.

Indigo offers "community consultation and political communications advice that helps our clients gain planning committee approval". "We are very good at what we do and we have an outstanding track record of gaining planning committee approval."[1]

(Note: Not to be confused with Indigo (PR) Ltd, Indigo PR Co Ltd or Indigo Strategic Communications).

In August 2014, they were renamed Thorncliffe.[2]

A team of councillors

According to Indigo's website in 2009, "Most of our team are politicians themselves and this enables us to help our clients talk with and engage the local community and stakeholders. We help them communicate and learn from local politicians and political decision makers. And we help them with any necessary media relations."[3]

Indigo doesn't list its staff but they include:

  • Greg Stone. Stone is a long-serving Liberal Democrat Councillor in the North Heaton area of Newcastle and a former executive member for development and regeneration. He was a also Liberal Democrat prospective Parliamentary candidate for Newcastle East. Stone was embroiled in a row in December 2008, when documents emerged which appeared to show that Indigo was profiling likely voting patterns of the council’s planning committee, despite a promise by Stone that he would have nothing to do with Newcastle planning applications to avoid any conflict of interest.[4]
  • Darren Sanders, account manager. Sanders is a Councillor in Lambeth.[5]
  • David Boothroyd. Councillor in Westminster City Council.[6]
  • Richard Patient, MD

Getting round planning applications - not quite "dark arts", but "tricks of the trade"

In March 2013 Greg Stone confirmed to undercover Telegraph reporters that many fellow employees at Indigo also worked as councillors or were involved in politics in some way. The paper recorded him on camera as saying 'that even if certain councillors would not talk to them about a planning application, there were certain “tricks of the trade” which offered “a good way of, of getting round this”.'

“A bit of cunning is needed when you’re dealing with some of these ones”, [Stone] admitted. “I wouldn’t say dark arts but, but, there is, there is sort of tricks of the trade." He described how Indigo Public Affairs could help a group of overseas investors win approval for developments around the country. He said that the lobbying company works for companies including Tesco as well as large housing developments. “Anything that’s controversial basically”, he said. [7]

Indigo's response to Telegraph sting

Indigo's managing director Richard Patient denied his firm had engaged in any improper activity, accusing The Telegraph of a "fishing expedition" and its undercover reporters of breaking the PCC code of conduct by posing as representatives of a financial services company:

The Telegraph is completely misrepresenting what we do. The situation is that we help developers consult with and listen to local communities and their elected representatives to find out what they actually want when new developments are proposed.
Councillors have a clear choice about whether to talk to developers or not and they have the same choice with community groups. After hearing from both sides, councillors on planning committees can make a well-informed choice about whether to accept or reject schemes.
At our company, our clear code of conduct goes beyond all legislative and regulatory requirements. Staff who are also councillors don’t work on schemes where the decision will be taken by their own local authority.
The Telegraph’s story contained no evidence of improper activity about our company. It just reflected their stance against development. But without development, you don’t get regeneration, jobs, homes, investment and infrastructure to take us out of recession.”

Indigo said it would be making a formal complaint to the PCC about the Telegraph's behaviour, "as it risks causing us unwarranted reputational damage". [8]

Conservative party conference 2014

In the background of Boris Johnson's speech at a fringe event at the 2014 Conservative Party conference was a banner saying Thorncliffe. Solomon Hughes discovered that Thorncliffe were working for the Mount Pleasant luxury flats redevelopment in central London, and that within days of making his speech, Johnson had approved the redevelopment. The event, organised by Lord Ashcroft and his blog ConservativeHome, was listed online as being “In partnership with Thorncliffe", however when asked about their involvement the firm appeared to deny that they were directly involved, saying “Thorncliffe sponsored the blogsite, not the Mayor of London, so any suggestion of impropriety is not only wrong but malicious.” [2]

Services

Indigo offers clients the following services:

  • Winning planning consent
  • Consulting the community
  • Local political project management
  • Effective media relations
  • Design, exhibitions and websites [9]

It also boasts of:

  • Achieving planning policy in the green belt for a housebuilder.
  • Working with the London Mayor and other senior political figures.
  • Managing stakeholder communications to gain approval for a local PFI or PPP project.[10]

Clients

Indigo Public Affairs does not publish a client list on its website or disclose them on the APPC or UKPAC registers. Yet managing director Richard Patient claims that:

Transparency and ethics isn't an issue with us, because we do it as a matter of course. We've put in place our own rigorous code of conduct, and transparency and good conduct is paramount to our business. [11]
The planning industry is dominated by people helping others to influence a decision, to lobby councillors to get a desired result. There are 30,000 architects and nearly as many planning consultants in the UK who lobby on behalf of third-party clients, most of whom would have to be included in the proposed Statutory Register of Lobbyists if the Government decided to include local authorities within its scope.[11]

Tesco is one client Indigo appears happy to be mention in its sporadic tweets. In March 2012 Richard Patient tweeted that Indigo had achieved "A stunning success today. A Tesco scheme for Land Sec approved despite officer recommendation to refuse. Approved 6 votes to 5". [12]

In February 2007 Indigo PA was reportedly hired to help build political support for London Markaz, dubbed a 'super mosque', by Tablighi Jamaat. Tablighi Jamaat is described as "a conservative and ultra-orthodox group with close links with the Wahhabi form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia." Indigo is described as "a lobbying firm with a track record of supporting controversial planning applications".[13]

Register of consultant lobbyists

The register of consultant lobbyists documents those clients on behalf of whom Indigo PA has met with government ministers. Their listings since joining in July 2015 are as follows:

July - September 2015

IC London Ltd

April - June 2015

IC London Ltd [14]

External resources

Contact

Second Floor, Berkeley Square House London W1J 6BD
http://www.indigopublicaffairs.com

Twitter: @indigopublicaff

References

  1. Indigo website, accessed Feb 2009
  2. 2.0 2.1 Solomon Hughes Boris Johnson and his luxury housing lobbyist bedfellows Vice, 15 October 2014, accessed 22 October 2014
  3. Indigo website, accessed Feb 2009
  4. Councillor Greg Stone investigated over voting patterns, The Journal, 19 Dec 2008
  5. Lambeth Register of interests, accessed Feb 2009
  6. Westminster City Council website, accessed Feb 2009
  7. *Holly Watt, Claire Newell, Ben Bryant, Councillor explains 'tricks of the trade' for planning approval, The Telegraph 10 March 2013, 10pm, acc 11 March 2013
  8. Richard Patient, Statement from Indigo Public Affairs, 11 March 2013, acc same day
  9. Indigo website, accessed Jan 2008
  10. Indigo website, accessed Feb 2009
  11. 11.0 11.1 Richard Patient, Making favourable decisions, Promotional Feature, Public Affairs Supplement 2012, PR Week.com, 24 May 2012
  12. @indigopublicaff, Richard Patient @indigopublicaff], acc 12 March 2013
  13. Supermosque for 70,000 'will be blocked', Telegraph, 20 Feb 2007
  14. Indigo Public Affairs profile 2016, Registrar of consultant lobbyists, accessed 4 May 2016