PPS is a multi-client lobbying firm specialising in the property and development industry. Established in 1990 as [[Political Planning Services], PPS Group was formed in 1999 with two operating companies: PPS (Local & Regional) Ltd and PPS (Public Affairs) Ltd. It has more than once been accused of employing unethical tactics.
Evening Standard journalist Andrew Gilligan writes in July 2007:
- FROM its headquarters in Mayfair, PPS has become the key player in a little-known corner of the PR industry - the branch that specialises in winning developers planning permission for unpopular schemes. Local protesters, residents' groups and even council planners may never have heard of PPS but PPS knows all about them. Its 60 staff act as the public face of controversial developments, and run a sophisticated war machine to get those developments past the objectors.
- The company was founded 17 years ago by Stephen Byfield, a former staffer for a Labour MP, and Charles St George, an ex-Tory councillor. Its client list reads like a roll-call of the development industry: volume housebuilders, such as Barratt, Wimpey, and Taylor Woodrow; big retailers; quarry owners; and power stations. Mr St George, now the company's director of special projects, lives on a country estate in Somerset and is described by PPS as having 'expertise in just about everything'. Mr Byfield remains the managing director of PPS and is heavily involved in BAA's hugely controversial project to expand Stansted Airport.
Fake letter writing
Imperial Wharf, London The Standard also received internal PPS documents, leaked by concerned staff, showing the then PPS director in charge of the Imperial Wharf account, Nick Keable, describing how the company had 'created a large number of letters for projects as diverse as power stations, quarries, and supermarkets.' This is all in breach of the APPC’s code of conduct, of which PPS is a member.
The [ES] report found that many of the supposedly favourable letters sent to the council backing a massive St George Developments scheme at Imperial Wharf, Fulham, came from people who could not be traced. Other, real, residents told ES that letters they had supposedly sent, backing the development, did not reflect their views, were not written by them and included signatures that had been faked. Internal PPS documents, leaked to ES by concerned staff, show the then PPS director in charge of the Imperial Wharf account, Nick Keable, describing how the company had 'created a large number of letters for projects as diverse as power stations, quarries, and supermarkets...'
- 'PPS has conducted a campaign of this kind for St George as part of their programme to secure planning permission for Imperial Wharf. A steady stream of positive letters, garnered by PPS, has helped to right the balance in St George's favour.'
The Standard also 'obtained a PPS document instructing a staff member to pose as a student in order to get information from councillors', and told of 'how the local councillor for Imperial Wharf, Brendan Bird, was visited by two people claiming to be students and asking detailed questions about the planning application.'
BAA and Stansted
A similar fake letter campaign took place regarding Stansted airport expansion, although the Evening Standard couldn’t prove that the letters came from PPS.:
The Evening Standard reported:
- At an SSE [Stop Stansted Expansion] public meeting in January 2006, Carol Barbone, the group's chair, was approached by a young man, Phil Bartram, saying he was a journalism student and wondering if he could take... copies of SSE's research and slideshow presentations for his studies. Ms Barbone handed them over.
- Only several months later, when a supporter received a message from Mr Bartram with a BAA email address, did she realise that he was actually on a work placement with, and subsequently fully employed by, BAA.
- The lobbyists' trade body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss possible action against PPS following our report. The report found that many of the supposedly favourable letters sent to the council backing a massive St George Developments scheme at Imperial Wharf, Fulham, came from people who could not be traced.
- Other, real, residents told us that letters they had supposedly sent, backing the development, did not reflect their views, were not written by them and included signatures that had been faked. Internal PPS documents, leaked to us by concerned staff, show the then PPS director in charge of the Imperial Wharf account, Nick Keable, describing how the company had "created a large number of letters for projects as diverse as power stations, quarries, and supermarkets....
- "PPS has conducted a campaign of this kind for St George as part of their programme to secure planning permission for Imperial Wharf. A steady stream of positive letters, garnered by PPS, has helped to right the balance in St George's favour."WE ALSO obtained a PPS document instructing a staff member to pose as a student in order to get information from councillors, and we told of how the local councillor for Imperial Wharf, Brendan Bird, was visited by two people claiming to be students and asking detailed questions about the planning application.
- BAA's director of communications for Stansted, Mark Pendlington, is a former managing director of PPS. And PPS, we can reveal, has also been retained by BAA at Stansted to help win its case. The PPS website says that the lobbyist's managing director, Stephen Byfield, is "currently working on the consultation programme for Stansted Airport's expansion". The latest APPC register lists BAA Lynton, the airport operator's property arm, as a PPS client.
- "Since Pendlington took over the atmosphere has changed," says Brian Ross, a senior officer with Stop Stansted Expansion. "It has started to get a lot more personal." The Standard has no direct evidence linking PPS to the fake letters sent to newspapers supporting the airport expansion. PPS specifically denies any such involvement. Mr Byfield told the Standard: "Our job at Stansted was to advise on the consultation programme. The last piece of work we did for them was about two months ago. We were not involved in support letter generation, and if you even seek to imply that we were, we will sue your arse." PPS and Mr Keable have also denied the allegations of forgery at Imperial Wharf, saying they would "never" forge letters.
- A spokesman for BAA initially claimed to the Standard that PPS's work at Stansted had ended "more than two years ago". Told about the entries in the APPC register and on PPS's own website, BAA amended its statement to clarify that PPS has worked for the airport operator as recently as May. BAA conceded that Philip Bartram had sought information from Stop Stansted Expansion, describing himself as a journalism student, in the way that campaigners have said.
- However, it said Mr Bartram was only on a work placement with BAA at the time, although he was subsequently employed by the company. It said it had not instructed him to represent himself as a student. BAA denied that either it or its contractors had used forgery and suggested the fake letters might be from real people who were too afraid to give their names.
In October 2007, PPS hired Donald Anderson as director of the PPS Group’s Scotland office. Anderson was leader of Edinburgh City Council from 1999 to 2006. During this time, Anderson supported an unpopular new development by Mountgrange Capital, the massive Caltongate scheme, that will see parts of the Old City overhauled to build luxury flats (listed and sound un-listed buildings demolished). It has been heavily critised for the scale and quality of the proposed new buildings, the impact on views and inadequate public consultation. Mountgrange Capital is a client of PPS although it insists that Anderson will not be working on the account. Anderson insisted his current employment at PPS was not linked to his support of Mountgrange’s plans while he was council leader. ‘It’s a laughable notion,’ he said. ‘I didn’t carry undue influence.
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- Stephen Byfield, a former staffer for a Labour MP.
- Charles St George, an ex-Tory councillor.
- Andrew Cumpsty, director (March 2008). Leader of the Conservative Group at Reading Borough Council, having been a councillor since 2004. Former head of corporate affairs at Ericsson Services, which operates in the telecoms sector, including supporting the rollout of masts for client Hutchison 3G.
- Mike Dobson, associate director (March 2008). Former corporate affairs manager at Ericsson Services.
- Alison Payne September 2006-November 2007 
PPS Group (London Office)
69 Grosvenor Street
London W1K 3JW
Phone 020 7529 1700
Fax: 020 7629 7514
- PPS Group UK Clients and Staff 1.12.03 - 31.05.04
- PPS Group, PRCA Yearbook 2004
- PPS Group UK Clients and Staff 1.12.07 - 29.02.08
- Political Wizard Databases >Public Affairs >Public Affairs Consultancies >PPS Group Ltd, accessed 13 November 2009
- TRICKERY, DECEIT, MANIPULATION From The Evening Standard - 30/07/2007 (2358 words) Features Revealed: the story behind one of London's most controversial new developments BY ANDREW GILLIGAN
- It's a con-sultation, Private Eye 1192
- From ‘Another Whiff of Dirty Tricks and the Battle Over Stansted’ By ANDREW GILLIGAN / Evening Standard Posted on: Monday, 6 August 2007, 18:10 CDT http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1025052/another_whiff_of_dirty_tricks_and_the_battle_over_stansted/index.html
- APPC meet PPS crisis
- Ericsson Services duo Cumpsty and Dobson join PPS, Ian Hall, Public Affairs News, March 2008
- Ericsson Services duo Cumpsty and Dobson join PPS, Ian Hall, Public Affairs News, March 2008
- http://www.appc.org.uk/appc/filemanager/root/site_assets/pdfs/APPC_Register_Sep_06_-_Nov_06.pdf; http://www.appc.org.uk/appc/filemanager/root/recycle_bin/List_APPC_Jun.pdf