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Livingstone calls for greater powers in planning process

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London mayor Ken Livingstone has called for a major increase in his powers to intervene in the planning decisions of local authorities.

In line with the wide-ranging powers enjoyed by the secretary of state, Livingstone would like to be able to overturn as well as direct refusals. And he would like the right to call in any London project - not just those defined as strategically significant.

Livingstone's call came during a meeting of the Greater London Assembly's planning scrutiny committee, during which he was called to give evidence last week. The committee has been investigating how the mayor reaches his planning decisions.

Chairman of the committee Tony Arbour criticised the proposals, claiming they would give the mayor an 'omnipotent' role within the planning process. And he added he would like to see a limiting of Livingstone's powers and an end to his private meetings with developers.

'No matter how much he glosses over it, ' Arbour said, 'there'll be some people who will say by not holding meetings in public, people could accuse him of corruption.'

Eleanor Young, the mayor's planning advisor, added: 'The mayor has occasional meetings with developers at pre-application stage, but these meetings are separate from the planning decisions-making process.'

She added that the mayor had already clearly explained the position when he appeared at the assembly's committee.However, she added that he would 'shortly be issuing a protocol' that would set out in exactly what circumstances he will and will not meet with developers, 'so that the assembly's misunderstanding of the process can be exposed'.

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