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.
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’.
As well as controversial involvements in Stansted airport expansion, and housing developments in Fulham (link to previous story) 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. ‘