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Boris calls for new development powers

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London Mayor Boris Johnson has demanded the Greater London Authority (GLA) is granted new powers to act as the government’s land disposal agency within the capital

The move, which Johnson hopes will speed up the redevelopment of publicly-owned land, would require an amendment to Clause 21 of the government’s Infrastructure Bill allowing land to be transferred directly to the authority from arm’s length bodies.

Johnson said that such an agreement would give the GLA the same powers that the bill proposed conferring on the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for everywhere else in the country.

The GLA said Johnson’s bid already had cross-party support, and was also being backed by business lobby group London First, housebuilder Barratt, and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Johnson said the extension of the same powers enjoyed by the HCA would be ‘a fantastic opportunity’ to unlock the potential of the many empty and unused sites across the capital.

Speaking at start of construction of a development of more than 500 homes on the site of Catford Greyhound Stadium, in south-east London, Johnson said he had been able to move 87 per cent of some 670ha of public land transferred to him in 2012, and could do more with the new powers.

‘Rapid redevelopment, regeneration and most importantly thousands of new homes for Londoners could be just around the corner given the necessary fast-tracking powers,’ he said.

‘Dramatic transformations, like the one we are witnessing in Catford, would be possible all over the city.’

London First chief executive Baroness Jo Valentine said work to redevelop empty sites and redundant buildings owned by the public sector in the capital would continue at a ‘glacial pace’ if  Johnson did not receive the new powers.

‘There is no body dedicated to actually identifying where all this land is,” she said.

‘First we need to give the mayor the power to create a 21st Century Domesday Book for London so we know where this land is. Then we need to ensure he has the ability to get on with selling it.’

CBI London director Lucy Haynes said the move would be ‘a shot in the arm’ for the housing market that would ‘unleash a wave of much needed construction development’.

The Infrastructure Bill was introduced in the House of Lords last month and is currently in the committee stage.

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