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New powers for Ken to revolutionise London planning

In an extraordinary decision, Ken Livingstone has won the right to approve certain 'strategic' schemes in the capital on top of his existing power to reject projects.

The move will be greeted as an outright attack on local councils and local democracy.

While details of the change are yet to emerge, there can be no question that this 'devolution of power' will revolutionise planning in London.

If Livingstone, who is increasingly seen as a good thing by developers, had had this power when Broadway Malyan's Vauxhall tower was going through planning, the proposal would not have faced a planning inquiry.

Livingstone made no secret of the fact that he was determined the project, which was opposed by Lambeth council, should be forced through.

There is some speculation that the first significant scheme to benefit from the mayor's now powers will be Allies and Morrison's vast 'three sisters' plans for Waterloo.

Among the other extension of Livingstone's planning powers are the right to direct changes to boroughs' programmes for the local development plans they produce.

And he will also have a stronger say on whether draft local development plans are in general conformity to his London Plan.

Livingstone said at a press conference this morning: 'This announcement is welcome recognition of the successes already achieved through the mayoral system in London and provides the opportunity to build on this success and further improve the lives of Londoners.

'We have demonstrated - through neighbourhood policing, the success of congestion charging and the transformation of the buses - that city-wide London government works and that Londoners are directly benefiting.

'The additional powers granted to the office of Mayor will enable us to tackle head-on the problems London faces - skills provision according to the capital's needs in the run-up to the Olympics and planning and housing powers which will help promote our city's global economic status and also deliver the vital affordable homes that Londoners need,' he added.

As well as a host of other powers being handed down to City Hall, Livingstone has also been put in charge of housing policy within Greater London.

by Ed Dorrell

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