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Government asks: 'What do you think of King Ken's new planning powers?'

The Government launched a consultation yesterday on its decision to extend the mayor of London's powers, a proposal which was greeted with vehement opposition.

In what can only be described as a formality, Ruth Kelly, secretary of state for communities and local government, has put King Ken's new powers forward for consultation, despite detailing the Mayor's new strengths in her announcement.

In her statement Kelly said: 'London Boroughs will continue to be responsible for the vast majority of planning applications in the capital and we recognise the crucial role they have in representing their communities.

'But we believe in a limited number of cases, the Mayor is best placed to determine the application given his responsibility for regional planning in the capital as a whole. This makes clear sense where an application raises issues that go to the heart of the strategic development of London.'

She added: 'We are committed to putting in place robust and clear procedures. We will ensure that local views are fully taken into account for all applications, including those the Mayor would decide.

'We believe these proposals strike the right balance by considering both the strategic and local interests to the benefit of all Londoners.'

The decision was slammed by many London councils when it was announced back in July, and the consultation only allows them to comment on how they think the powers should be best used, they cannot directly oppose the plans.

The consultation period will last 12 weeks. Ministers will then finalise the powers in light of responses from the consultation.

by Richard Vaughan

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