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Norris, mayoral candidate, on ideas for London

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Faced by an audience of less than 15 at an event organised by the Urban Design Group, Steven Norris voiced his exasperation at the 'pathetic quality of the debate' surrounding the creation of the new mayoral institution in London, and the fact that there seems to be 'no grasp out there of what the issues really are.' His own campaign seems geared to attracting all those Labour voters who can't stomach either Livingstone's or Dobson's lack of urbanity, by stressing the non-political nature of the mayoral post, and congratulating the Labour government on recognising 'the need for a strategic authority' which he had himself recommended to the previous government. Blair's government, he said with approval, had 'quite correctly identified' the issues which need to be addressed, notably transport, policing, and a spatial development strategy.

Norris describes the latter as 'the most important document' which the mayor will have to produce, integrating transport policy with land-use strategy and social and economic needs, and addressing the 'terrible imbalance between wealth and poverty', particularly the crisis in provision of affordable housing. It is 'not acceptable to bus in essential workers' to the city, Norris said. He cited increased density as the key to the problem, again applauding the current government for its commitment to brownfield development, and recommending the 'traditional London square' as the ideal model to replace the lower-density patterns of post-war development and its obsession with 'box-like constructions'. But he stressed that if developers are to be allowed to add 'a third, fourth, or fifth storey', then they must allocate a percentage of the volume for affordable housing.

Norris' second major point was the need to 'make London healthier', through improvement in air quality. But while acknowledging that 'traffic is a major contributor', he was keen to point out that the imperative to reduce emissions should not be confused with a desire to reduce traffic as 'an end in itself'- a moral crusade he finds disturbing. He praised Westminster Council's 'low emissions zones' initiative, and the possibility of enforcing air quality, but rejected road pricing, arguing that none of the European cities which enjoy better environmental quality than London have resorted to such a measure. A better initiative, he argued, would be to 'make the buses work properly', by replacing the current 'crude, inadequate and pathetic ticketing system', possibly with smart cards, and ruthlessly enforcing bus priority on the roads.

Norris concluded a succinct summary of his mayoral agenda for the environment with a round condemnation of the huge new White City retail development, with its derisory 40 residential units. He demands that we 'never again build simply factory estates or dormitories', and focus on developing current major sites (Paddington, Battersea, the Lea and Wandle valleys) with 'communities which design out the need to travel.'

Steven Norris' talk, 'My Vision for London', was organised by the Urban Design Group at the Gallery in London's Smithfield

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