Londoners’ chance to speak out on ticket office closures

Don’t miss out on your chance to help stop the Mayor of London’s proposal to close all the Capital’s tube ticket offices. If implemented the decision would not only mean the loss of every one of London’s ticket offices but would also see 900 station staff jobs disappear.

A consultation has been launched today asking Londoners for their views.

Boris Johnson’s plans to axe tube ticket offices and their staff despite the fact that last year almost 40% of ticket sales were conducted by staffed station counters. Opponents of the cuts argue that, even without ticket offices, staff should be retained to deal with more complex queries such as refunds and to help people unfamiliar with the tube network or less comfortable using ticket machines, for example tourists.

London_Underground_ticket_office,_Tottenham_Hale_station_-_geograph.org.uk_-_614568

During his election campaign in 2008 Johnson pledged not to close any front counters promising to ensure there “is always a manned ticket office at every station”.

The consultation, which launches on Friday (15th) and runs for 6 weeks, is run by London TravelWatch and can be completed at www.Londontravelwatch.org.uk.

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Standing up for car parking standards in London

Earlier this year I reacted with dismay to the then-planning minister Nick Boles letter to the Mayor demanding that London get rid of strategic car parking standards. These standards, which set a maximum limit for the number of spaces per residential unit depending on local circumstances, have been instrumental to encouraging sustainable development across the capital. They are one of the reasons London has had the quickest shift out of the car and onto bikes, buses, and feet of any city in the world.

resi car parking london

That’s why I am speaking on behalf of a motion this morning at the London Assembly, rejecting the former minister’s assertions and calling on London to maintain its right to set standards.

You can watch the session live from 10am (though the motion won’t be raised until after 11.30am) here.

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Old Oak Common and Park Royal

The convergence of HS2 and Crossrail on a core area larger than Canary Wharf, Old Oak Common offers a unique and exciting opportunity to build a new piece of city on the edge of central London. But is the Mayor’s vision the best we can do?

At this morning’s meeting the Planning Committee, which I chair, will be examining Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to use a Mayoral Development Corporation to take over statutory powers relating to infrastructure, regeneration, land acquisitions and planning from the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham.

old oak common

The following Greater London Authority staff will give a presentation on the current London Plan policy for Old Oak and Park Royal and the Mayor’s MDC proposal.

Stewart Murray, Assistant Director – Planning

Colin Wilson, Senior Manager – Planning Decisions

Martin Scholar, Strategic Planning Manager – Planning Frameworks

Michael Mulhern, Principal Project Officer – Regeneration

The Committee will question the following guests about the future of Old Oak and Park Royal.

Pat Hayes, Executive Director Regeneration and Housing, LB Ealing

Amanda Souter, Chair of Wells House Road Residents Association

Mike Cummings, Regional Director, SEGRO

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, 1 July from 10.00am in The Chamber at City Hall (The Queen’s Walk, London SE1). You can also watch proceedings live from here.

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Developing brownfield land

London has around 4,000 hectares of brownfield land, enough for about a third of a million homes. Building on brownfield may be slightly more costly to developers, but it’s well worth it for society: it often regenerates areas and produces more sustainable development that is closer to existing infrastructure and established neighbourhoods.

brownfield - clearing for aquatic centre

That’s why I am pleased that last week the Chancellor used his Mansion House speech to announce new funding for development of brownfield land. The Telegraph explains:

The Chancellor also vowed to unleash an “urban planning revolution” by changing planning rules to “remove all the obstacles” that prevent the development of brownfield sites. He said councils “will be required” to create pre-approved planning permissions – or local development orders (LDOs) – on derelict sites in towns and cities. He announced £5m of funding to help create the first 100 LDOs and said that 90pc of brownfield sites should have them by 2020. The reforms could result in planning permission for 200,000 new homes.

Under the plans, local authorities across the country will be expected to bring forward their brownfield land for development, and specify what should be built on them. This is a positive step away from the developer-led approach that dominates house-building in this country, where we sit and wait for the private sector to take the lead instead of proactively outlining where homes should go and what amenities and infrastructure they’ll require. The Chancellor also promises cash to help clean up many of these sites – the cost of remediation is often cited as a barrier to development – and in London the Mayor has pledged to match this funding.

So far so good.

But it all depends on how Boris executes this opportunity. He needs to make sure that the local development orders stipulate sufficient levels of affordable housing. He also needs to ensure that the “changes to planning rules” outlined by the Mayor don’t mean “no planning” – these developments must meet all the requirements to which all others are subject, on issues like housing standards (eg on design, space, energy efficiency, amenity, etc.) and infrastructure provision.

I wrote to Boris last week and asked him to commit to these reasonable demands. You can read my letter here.

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Mayor “not listening” on tall buildings debate

Earlier today I asked the Mayor if he would reconsider his policies on tall buildings in light of the growing consensus that we need a rethink.

In my question to Boris at Mayor’s Question Time, argued that the high costs of most flats in these buildings mean they are failing to meet London’s housing need. I also told the Mayor that there is growing consensus – spearheaded by the Skyline campaign – that his policies on tall buildings need to be reconsidered.

Unfortunately, Boris is simply not listening to the calls for him to look again at his policies and implementation. I’m disappointed that the Mayor failed to accept that his approach to tall buildings is lining the pockets of developers while doing little to help alleviate London’s housing crisis.

40_Bank_Street_skyscraper_in_London,_spring_2013

Tall buildings can make a positive contribution to city life and the skyline, but they must not damage the character and identity of the surrounding area.

You don’t have to go super-high to get the housing we need. High-density yet mid-rise developments like Kings Cross provide mixed-income communities without the negative consequences on the environment, public realm, and heritage.

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I will challenge Boris on tall buildings

Boris Johnson famously said that he doesn’t want London to turn into Dubai-on-Thames. But his planning policies and planning decisions seem be allowing just that.

At this morning’s Mayor’s Question Time, I will challenge the Mayor on the rash of tall buildings going up across the capital. The Planning Committee heard yesterday that there is no need to build up in order to achieve all but the highest density levels outlined in the London Plan. So if it’s not about housing, what is it about?Moorhouse_2

Tune in to watch me question the Mayor on this. You can watch the webcast live from 10am here.

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Assembly told building up not the only answer to London’s housing crisis

Yesterday’s meeting of the London Assembly Planning Committee, which I chair, offered perhaps the most wide-ranging debate on the skyscrapers increasingly dominating London’s skyline so far. We had a vast array of experts, including representatives from the Skyline campaign, a top developer, architects, a heritage expert, an engineer with knowledge in sustainability, and others, about this important issue.

If you have the time, I encourage you to watch the archived webcast of the debate available here.

Heron_Tower,_Bishopsgate

Please see below the press release from the London Assembly:

Peppering London’s skyline with increasing numbers of taller and taller residential buildings will not solve London’s housing shortage, the London Assembly Planning Committee was told today.

 

In a wide-ranging hearing about tall buildings and London’s skyline, architect Sunand Prasad told the committee “It is not true that we need to build tall to accommodate people. There are many, many models that can fulfil density requirements without going over 20 stories.”

 

The Committee heard from developer Tony Pidgley that demand for flats in high rises is on the increase with attitudes changing over the last 25 years and he argued that public demand is driving the developers to build towers.

 

But Peter Rees, Professor of Places and Planning, UCL, and former City of London Corporation’s City Planning Officer  warned that “While 27 per cent of people might want to live in tall buildings, 100 per cent of Londoners have to look at them.”

 

The committee was told that a more coherent approach is needed to protect London’s skyline.

English Heritage Planning and Conservation Director Nigel Barker told Committee members “The Greater London Authority should be taking a clearer lead on how we are going to balance up the need for growth, the need for development, with the protection of our historic environment.”

 

Nicky Gavron AM, Chair of the Planning Committee, said:

 

“The debate about the impact of tall buildings on London’s skyline has been rising as fast as the towers that increasingly dominate it.

 

“Today we heard a wide-range of views about the potential impacts – both good and bad – that increased numbers of skyscrapers could bring to London and pleas for a more coherent city –wide approach to their development.”

 

“The Planning Committee will now consider in detail the points made to it and make recommendations as to how the Mayor and Greater London Authority can better fulfil that need.”

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