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Livingstone planning move is 'undemocratic', claim Tories

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Conservatives have accused London mayor Ken Livingstone of further damaging democratic accountability in the capital's planning process.

The Greater London Assembly planning committee chair, Bob Neil, is furious that Livingstone has 'unilaterally decided' to remove the committee's right to scrutinise the mayor's response to the boroughs' Unitary Development Plans.

Neil said he hoped that the mayor could be persuaded to rethink his decision, 'otherwise we will be forced to turn to our lawyers to reclaim this power through the courts'.

Livingstone announced last week that his office 'no longer has the time' to consult with the assembly because the six-week period he has to respond to the UDPs 'is already insufficient'.

Neil criticised the decision as 'yet another example' of Livingstone concentrating all the power with himself and his planners. 'The mayor's planning department is completely untransparent, ' he claimed. 'This new move only adds to our concerns about his meetings with developers behind closed doors.'

But Livingstone's office dismissed Neil's claims, insisting 'there is nothing set down in GLA legislation and guidance that gives the assembly a right to scrutinise the mayor's planning decisions before they are made'.

'The mayor has a statutory duty to scrutinise UDPs to ensure they conform with the London Plan, ' a spokeswoman said. 'However, because the planning committee has moved to a fixed cycle of meetings, it is no longer possible to formally present the mayor's draft response.

'The assembly will still be able to scrutinise the mayor's response after it has been made, ' she added.

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