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London Plan is 'dead in the water'

Plans to shelve some of the capital's most important transport upgrades have jeopardised the future of Ken Livingstone's draft London Plan.

The Strategic Rail Authority's (SRA) decision last week to postpone the East London Line Extension, and its refusal to commit to Crossrail, have left the development framework floundering, according to planning experts.

Even London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron has admitted that the problem means the timetable for the plan's implementation will 'have to be rephased'.

The SRA's Annual Report - issued on Thursday - admitted that it could not promise to deliver Crossrail and would need to postpone the East London Line Extension 'because of rising infrastructure costs'.

And the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also told the SRA last week to rethink its plans for another major infrastructure upgrade, Thameslink 2000, a move described by Gavron as 'a significant setback for our strategy'.

However, the chairman of the think tank London Planning Forum, Brian Waters, went further, telling the AJ that the draft version, unveiled by Livingstone last July, will 'now not even get off the drawing board'.

The draft London Plan was published as 'a comprehensive framework for the development of the capital' over the next 10 years. It outlines regeneration for areas such as the Isle of Dogs and Elephant and Castle and ambitious business hubs in areas such as Paddington and Croydon.

But Waters said these aims are now finished.

'Livingstone's framework is totally and utterly dependent on these infrastructure projects, for which there is now not a penny, ' he said. 'The mayor's office should accept that the plan is now dead in the water.'

And the chair of the Greater London Assembly's planning committee, Bob Neil, agreed that the plan will 'never happen' because the SRA's financial support for transport upgrades is failing. 'Every important aspect of the plan is underpinned by these absolutely essential improvements, ' he warned. 'Regeneration in London is in big trouble.'

Assembly member Tony Arbour echoed these opinions, labelling the SRA's announcement an absolute disaster. 'If Crossrail and the East London Line are shelved, then the whole of Livingstone's plan will return to the drawing board. It is completely knackered, ' he said.

'London needs these infrastructure schemes desperately and if they do not go ahead, the whole capital will be in trouble, ' Arbour added.

However, Gavron hit back at the plan's critics.

'These announcements are setbacks, ' she added, 'but the plan still goes ahead. We will just have to work on it harder.'

Practices that will suffer directly from the news include Aukett Europe, BDP and the Design Research Unit, which have all been commissioned to design stations on the Crossrail scheme.

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