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Boris v Ken: who should get your vote?

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With only a fortnight until the London mayor 2012 polls close, Merlin Fulcher breaks down the housing, planning and transport pledges of front-runners Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone and explains how their manifestos affect the profession

The race for London’s new mayor is hotting up. With power over planning, the Olympic Legacy and regeneration, the ultimate victor will have a profound influence over the lives and projects of architects working in the capital.

However, with only a fortnight to go until the polls close on 3 May, the profession has yet to single out a favourite.

The most divisive issue for the two front-runners could be housing. Labour candidate and former mayor Ken Livingstone raised eyebrows last week over his pledge to make half of all new homes affordable – a rule previously scrapped by Conservative mayoral candidate and incumbent Boris Johnson.

Developments involving loss of social housing without replacement would be blocked.

Labour peer Richard Rogers welcomed the policy’s potential resurrection, which he said would ‘break down poor and rich ghettos.’

Rogers also backed Livingstone’s plans for a London-wide non-profit lettings agency and for future construction to be on previously developed land to prevent ‘urban sprawl’.

However, Berman Guedes Stretton director Bruce Cockburn warned a similar ‘50 per cent rule’ in Oxford had had ‘a desperate effect on the supply of housing, which is now almost non-existent’.

He said: ‘Applying this rule hammers land value to such an extent that developers will build anything before housing.’

Livingstone, who won the AJ100 ‘greatest contribution to the profession’ award in 2009, would also encourage modular eco-housing and council house-building, and has pledged to use mayoral planning powers to make it easier for ‘rapidly-expanding’ churches to gain planning permission, especially concerning opposition to ‘change of use’ applications.

In constrast, Johnson has promised to deliver 55,000 affordable homes by 2015 and invest £821 million to improve 45,000 council houses. He has also launched a £5 billion London Development Panel to oversee housing in the capital.

Studio Octopi’s Chris Romer-Lee said: ‘The only real difference between Livingstone and Johnson is on rents. As a small practice looking to get into affordable housing, we would like to know how any new mayor will embrace innovation in housing and control design standards.’

Ben Derbyshire, managing director of HTA, urged the candidates to promote ‘substantial institutional investment’ in private rented development and to scrap the coalition’s ‘anti-garden grabbing’ stance, which Johnson has pledged to uphold.

He also recommended a repeal of the ‘Right to Light legislation which creates a nightmare of complexity for developers.’

Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick claimed he would create 40,000 homes above shops while Jenny Jones for the Green Party has promised a ban on foreign property investors.

In relation to transport issues, the mayoral frontrunners’ opposing views about Norman Foster’s £50 billion Thames Estuary Airport proposal for the Isle of Grain in Kent will also split voters. Johnson has long promoted the idea of a hub airport east of the capital but Livingstone has made scrapping the proposals a key part of his election manifesto.

Though openly pro-development, Livingstone said in his manifesto he would ‘not waste any more Londoners’ money and will scrap this plan,’ claiming the four-runway airport would ‘ultimately close Heathrow’. He also ruled out a third runway at Heathrow.

ADP chair Roger FitzGerald said without an estuary airport London risked becoming a ‘transport backwater’ and called for a ‘decisive’ and long-term strategy for London’s future.

‘Infrastructure, particularly transport, is the key. Whoever can grasp this challenge deserves to be the next mayor.’


The London mayoral contenders

Boris Johnson Conservative, London mayor 2008 - present

Boris Johnson


£5 billion London Development Panel launched
Deliver 55,000 affordable homes by 2015
Campaign against rent controls
Larger new homes and better design standards
£821 million to improve 45,000 council houses
Maintain presumption against ‘back garden’ development
Empty homes to constitute less than 1 per cent of stock

Lobby for Thames Estuary hub airport and block third Heathrow runway
Explore Thames crossing between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges
Extend Northern Line to Battersea
Extend the ‘Boris bike’ scheme
No High Speed 2 without Crossrail 2 funding
Improve rundown suburban rail stations
Extend DLR from Lewisham to Bromley
Tramlink extension to Crystal Palace
Road tunnel from Greenwich Peninsula to Silvertown within 10 years

Look at a ‘Barnett’ style funding mechanism for London
£221 million regeneration fund to support small businesses
Support a science institute on the Olympic Park
£221 million to transform local high streets

Roll out 1,300 electric car-charging points by 2013
Plant 20,000 extra street trees
Restore 120 hectares of green space
Create 100 ‘pocket parks’
Upgrade London’s ‘look and feel’


Ken Livingstone, Labour, London mayor 2000-2008

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone


‘Tough’ planning regulations so private developments meet wider needs
Encourage council house building
50 per cent of new homes to be affordable
Encourage modular eco-housing
Developments that involve a loss of social housing without replacement to be blocked
London non-profi t lettings agency to reduce rents

Make a third of all tube stations step-free by 2016
Redesign cycle superhighways and invite Tour de France back to London
Scrap plans for a Thames Estuary hub airport and no new runway at Heathrow
Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfl eet, with Crossrail 2 supported and Crossrail 3 safeguarded
Extend Croydon Tramlink to Crystal Palace

Support ‘rapidlyexpanding’ churches to gain planning permission
Support for ‘tech city’ around London’s fringe
Equal pay for women to be championed

Free home insulation for those in fuel poverty
Public realm programmes to be extended
Create an ‘uninterrupted’ central London pedestrian network linking the Thames, Trafalgar Square, Soho and Covent Garden
Review cycle hire scheme to make it appeal to wider range of Londoners
Expand traffic-free ‘Greenways’ cycle routes connecting suburbs


Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat

Brian Paddick

Brian Paddick


Restart council home-building
London Housing Company to match land with developers

Long-term zero waste goal
Zero carbon London by 2030

Establish a London Green Investment Bank


Jenny Jones, Green

Jenny Jones

Source: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Jenny Jones


15,000 new homes a year and refurbish one million
Ban foreign property investors

Establish a London Mutual Housing Company

Protect and re-develop the traditional ‘high street’


Also standing:

Siobhan Benita, Independent

Carlos Cortiglia, BNP

Lawrence Webb, UKIP



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