Is Mayor Hiding Behind Eric Pickles?

Following Mayor’s Question Time on 15 June, Nicky Gavron AM is writing to the Mayor to ask him to publish immediately his response to the Inspectors’ Report on the London Plan following heavy criticism of key flagship housing policies.

She cited two fundamental policies which had been overturned in the Report.

She say:

“Boris threw away the London wide target that 50% of all new housing in London should be affordable; social rented or low cost homes. The effect is to cut the supply of affordable homes for Londoners.”

“The Inspectors reporting on the examination in public, held last year on the Mayor’s new version of the London Plan stated that the 50% target should be brought back. I want to know what Boris is going to do about it. Is he going to do a U-turn and restore this progressive policy for Londoners or will he persist in ditching it and hide behind Pickles as an excuse. Londoners need to know, many of their homes are dependent on the Mayor seeing sense and putting the target back.”

The Inspectors also recommended that Boris deletes his new policy to not “stimulate social rented housing… in areas of mono-tenure market housing” because it would undermine mixed and balanced communities in wealthier boroughs.

Nicky Gavron AM warned that the policy could foster a form of social cleansing.

She asked the Mayor “what are you trying to hide” and why he is going back on his manifesto promise to be “a transparent Mayor” and to create “a more open and transparent decision making process” at City Hall.

Nicky Gavron AM says:

“These are absolutely pivotal policies to the future of London’s communities and the Mayor has been roundly criticised from all quarters – from the development industry to the tenants’ groups and now by the independent inspectors.

“It is established practice for the Mayor to publish his comments at the same time as the Inspector’s Report and it is the role of the GLA and the Mayor to be transparent and accountable on such matters.”

“If the Mayor does not publish his comments we shall never know which recommendations he agreed to and whether it was he or Eric Pickles who overturned the Inspectors’ recommendations.”

“While the Tory Assembly Members called for the Inspectors’ recommendations to be “rejected out of hand” and Boris accused them of “working on outdated assumption”, they fail to recognise that the Inspectors report is not party political, is based on evidence from a wide range of sector experts and a 31 day scrutiny.

This dismissive approach will not just damage the planning system but will harm the many ordinary Londoners that just want a decent home.”


Notes to Editor

The Webcast of today’s meeting can be viewed here:

The Mayor’s Draft Replacement London Plan can be found here:

The Report of the Panel into the Draft Replacement London Plan can be found here:

More information on the Examination in Public into the Draft Replacement London Plan can be found here:

On Policy 3.10 (Mixed and Balanced Communities), the Inspectors said:

We do not share the Mayor’s view that there is no need… to stimulate social rented housing provision in areas of mono-tenure market housing because “that is not where the concentrations of deprivation are”. While this response may be factually correct, the main purpose of (the) policy… would not be met universally in London if there is to be the weighted focus of implementation signalled in (the current) Policy…

On Policy 3.12 (Affordable housing targets), the Inspectors said:

Preference for a percentage rather than numerical target garnered a wide measure of support for several reasons. London Councils and the development sector, including the HBF, liked the simplicity and familiarity of a percentage target. Other specialists in the field, such as Pocket Homes Ltd, argued strongly against departing from the London Plan 2008 percentage because of the importance attaching to consistency and certainty when negotiating for site acquisition and progressing schemes with Borough development managers over relatively long time periods. The Boroughs themselves considered that a numerical target would simply be regarded as a cap which, if met, would not prompt the provision of more. The development sector, also returning to the discussion, cautioned that if the trajectory indicated that the numerical target was not being met in the early part of the plan period, they could be faced with excessive demands on sites coming forward in the later part of the plan period. Dr Fordham pointed out that targets are used both for negotiating planning obligations and for securing subsidy and that Boroughs would be hamstrung in both respects once a numerical target had been met.

We note in particular the argument put to us… that past performance is not necessarily a reliable indicator of future progress, given that the… 50% target is only now beginning to be reflected in Development Plan Documents and in actual delivery. Their view is that this is the wrong time to be reducing the percentage sought.

The Panel recommended that the policy said the Mayor should amend the policy to say it “should aspire towards securing 50% of all new housing as affordable housing across London as a whole”.

Boris Johnson’s “Making London’s Mayor More Accountable” manifesto pledged to create “a more open and transparent decision making process, which will
help restore Londoners’ trust in City Hall“.




About nickygavron

Former Deputy Mayor of London. London Assembly Member, Chair of Planning Committee, and GLA Labour Spokesperson for Planning. NPF Member.
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