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Boris has ‘serious concerns’ over planning system


London mayor Boris Johnson said he has ‘serious concerns’ about the UK’s planning system

He told AJ sister-title Construction News, that the system holds up development in London, with planning departments ‘underpowered’ and decisions taking ‘far too long’.

‘We live in a democracy in which power is dispersed in many places and in which it is very hard to get things through at the scale and pace that we sometimes need.

‘That’s why [it is beneficial] having a mayoral development corporation [such as in East Wick and Sweetwater] and in Old Oak Common, because if you have planning powers you can go a lot faster.’

Johnson brought forward a 1,500-home scheme in East London’s Olympic Park by six years through the creation of a mayoral development corporation.

The East Wick and Sweetwater scheme has been designed by a team led by Studio Egret West and Sheppard Robson (who are joint masterplanners) which also includes Stirling Prize-winning Alison Brooks Architects (ABA), ShedKM, Piercy & Co, Astudio and landscape designers Fabrik.

The mayor’s 2020 vision aims to deliver 42,000 new homes a year to the capital but critics have argued that this target is too low.

Mr Johnson said: ‘Frankly, the first thing critics should do is acknowledge that we’ve built more homes than ever before and that we’re on target to deliver over 100,000 homes – I think the policy that we’re outlining will tackle London’s housing crisis.

‘We are already building phenomenal homes and a phenomenal amount of affordable homes.’

But he added that there was a ‘paradox’ with people wanting more affordable homes but not wanting their own homes to be more affordable.

Asked about greenbelt development, the mayor made ‘a very firm point’ about building on brownfield first.

‘If you start to open up the prospect of greenbelt development, which is much cheaper to build on and much easier for developers to go for, you will take off all the incentive and pressure to do the brownfield regeneration and that would be a great shame.’

Last month the chancellor and mayor published a six-point long term economic plan for London, including giving London boroughs more power over skills funding and planning.

Johnson said it was ‘great news’ and added that ‘it will give us a chance to deliver more young people to the construction trade to the kind of skills in bricklaying or engineering that the trade needs.

‘At the moment you have got lots of kids going into hairdressing [yet] there I a huge demand for [construction workers].’


Readers' comments (2)

  • Planning departments are underpowered - but mainly they are development control departments. And while we are happy to acknowledge Boris is now trying to do something about London's undersupply of housing, the cause of this undersupply is the failure of POLITICIANS to spot 100,000 people every year arriving between 2001 and 2011 and DOING something about it. So if he could please acknowledge that, then perhaps we could move on. Moving on, then, it is all very well to suck up power and spit it out in Mayoral Development Corporation (we need them), but this disempowers people. And we need local planners to identify areas for densification and more mixed use to entice investment. Even Mayoral Development Corporation cannot reach the vast numbers of smaller sites which are ripe for rethinking. The Mayor needs locally-driven initiatives too.

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  • Ben Derbyshire

    Boris Johnson has been calling for more powers to
    be devolved from central Government to London
    and other City Regions. Devolution is a hot topic
    following the Scottish Referendum and now seems
    like a good time to paint a picture of what a devolved
    London Economic Region might be like and what
    the consequences might be for its ability to meet the
    diverse housing needs of its population.
    The London Society proposed a Development Plan for Greater London as far back as 1919. It is relevant to so again now because of the political constraints upon the city’s
    leadership. None of the parties represented in the
    Greater London Authority seem to be in a position
    to postulate what its future might look like for fear
    of alienating middle ground voters in outer Boroughs and the Home Counties where, in an
    era of tight poll margins and coalition Government,
    support is desperately hard fought.
    It’s ironic indeed that planning and house
    building have become such contentious issues with
    voters that discussion of them is virtually taboo
    for politicians - even though an effective plan for
    the delivery of more homes is precisely where the
    solution to our citizen’s most pressing difficulties lies.
    We need a strategic revamp of the structure of
    governance and planning for the economic region
    of Greater London putting in place the structures
    that would enable a world city of London’s status and
    size to organise and meet its own needs. The starting
    point would be the recognition that the footprint of the capital extends far beyond its own boundaries.
    As engineer Alan Baxter pointed out at the London
    Society debate on the future of the Green Belt,
    London’s phenomenal economic success generates
    all kinds of challenging demands apart from the
    commonly expressed requirements for housing
    and transport infrastructure: leisure, recreation,
    biodiversity, animal and plant husbandry, health,
    and psychological wellbeing can all be obtained from
    our relationship with the green belt if we protect it
    and invest in it appropriately.
    Ben Derbyshire.
    Managing Partner, HTA Design LLP
    Chair, The Housing Forum.
    The London Society committee.

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