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Stoke Newington Sainsbury's lobbyist Four Communications in spotlight again over controversial Stamford Hill school application

PUBLISHED: 12:29 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 14:30 12 January 2012

The plans for Satmar Boys' School in Amhurst Park went on show in an open day in December

The plans for Satmar Boys' School in Amhurst Park went on show in an open day in December

Archant

Opponents of an unlawful Orthdox Jewish boys' school in Stamford Hill - which is making a contentious planning application - have questioned its links with a high profile PR company.

Opponents of an unlawful Orthodox Jewish boys’ school in Stamford Hill, which is making a contentious planning application, have questioned its links to a top PR company.

Four Communications came into the spotlight last month after it emerged that, as well as lobbying for the proposed Sainsbury’s development in Stoke Newington, the public relations company had also been hired by Hackney Council to design a website to promote local businesses.

Campaigners against the supermarket claimed the dual roles the PR firm had taken on created a conflict of interest.

Now opponents of the Torah Veyirah of Satmar boys’ school in Amhurst Park believe the democratic process is being undermined by Four Communications’ involvement in its application to build a new school building there.

It has emerged that Alun Hayes, a director at Four Communications, orchestrated an “urgent meeting” between ward councillor Cllr Ned Mulready and Eli Low, from applicant Gilmoor Benevolent Fund.

Mr Hayes, a former political adviser to MP Harriet Harman, wrote to Cllr Mulready using his Four Communications email: “I fully understand that this meeting would be as much an opportunity for us all to have a frank conversation about the underlying concerns of others within the community as much as it is about the school resolving some of their issues.”

A spokesman for Four Communications denied involvement in the scheme, and Alun Hayes maintained he was acting in a personal capacity as a “labour party activist.”

“I did this in the spirit of fostering better relations between people and for the avoidance of any doubt no services have been asked for, offered, provided or paid for,” he said.

But resident and opponent of the school, Rupert Harding, said: “The idea of a professional PR man engaged in unpaid PR as a spare-time spin doctor is a strange one. “The school is unauthorised and is the subject of council enforcement action and of a two-year-long campaign by more than 150 concerned local residents. This is an ongoing local democratic process, and we can do without a hidden PR presence behind the scenes exerting spin.”

Mr Low said he had not paid Four Communications but that Mr Hayes was a “friend of a friend” and had been “influential in securing a meeting” with Cllr Mulready.

The council’s planning committee refused the school planning permission on Tuesday night but the Gilmoor Benevolent Fund is appealing to the Secretary of State.

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