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London Councils changes position and backs new planning powers for Livingstone

In a bizarre U-turn, London Councils - formerly the Association of London Government - has backed the decision to give Ken Livingstone new planning powers, despite previously voicing strong opposition.

London Councils has issued a release stating its support, saying it shows a willingness to accept the principle of the mayor's new powers, albeit subject to some safeguards.

Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham and vice-chairman of London Councils, said: 'The transfer of powers to the mayor need not make the planning system more complex, especially at a time when the government is looking to streamline the planning system.

'At the heart of our response is the proposal that there should be conditions built into the system restricting the circumstances under which the mayor can take over an application,' added Bullock.

Livingstone has welcomed the change of heart, and no doubt recognises the added gravitas it will bring to the government's case for the devolution of powers when the bill passes through Parliament in December.

Livingstone said: 'I welcome the recognition by Steve Bullock and London Councils that these additional powers for the mayor are, in principle, an acceptable approach and need not make the planning system more complex.

'This is so much more constructive than some of the negative reaction and scaremongering about the proposals,' he continued.

'Now we have this sensible change in their position I look forward to working with boroughs and the government to finalise proposals for implementing the new powers in the most effective way possible.'

by Richard Vaughan

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