This afternoon, members of the London Assembly will have the historic opportunity to vote down the Mayor’s revised London Plan.
The Mayor’s plans will see new “affordable” rented housing rents set at up to 80 per cent of market rate, pushing many new properties in London out of the reach of those on low and modest incomes. In flagrant disregard of the spirit of localism, the Revised Early Minor Alterations to the London Plan (REMA) prevent local boroughs from setting rent caps at levels which reflect local circumstances and local need.
Combined with the welfare reforms, the Mayor’s changes will make huge swathes of inner London even more unaffordable. Unless the Assembly can prevent this, it will ghettoise the city and put intolerable strain on a range of already overburdened local services in outer London
The revisions also include other changes to the London Plan, which is the spatial planning document for London. Most of the changes are minor technical ones intended to bring the Plan into conformity with new national planning policy, but others – such as those on the Community Infrastructure Levy – could have a substantial impact on the way planning works in London.
Last year’s consultation on REMA and the subsequent Examination in Public revealed that a majority of boroughs, the Assembly Planning Committee, and NGOs were united in their opposition to many of the changes, particularly those on affordable housing. In a cross-party joint submission, London boroughs argued that they must retain the powers to set affordable rent level caps in their local plans in order to reflect local circumstances and meet local need.
This argument was accepted by an independent inspector. His report noted that REMA will comply with national planning policy only if it is amended to reflect three recommendations set out in the inspector’s report, including one on affordable housing.
With brazen disregard for the conclusions of an independent inspector reached through a quasi-judicial process, in August the Mayor announced that he would not accept the inspector’s recommendations.
In response, the Assembly called an unplanned Extraordinary Meeting to debate REMA and vote on the plan. Under new powers created the Localism Act, the Assembly can reject Mayoral strategies with a two-thirds majority. This afternoon, I will lead the call for us to do just that.
This isn’t about stopping the Mayor from changing the London Plan – it’s about referring REMA back to him, so that he can incorporate the views of the boroughs and the inspector’s recommendations. This is about defending localism, and ensuring that boroughs can prevent affordable rent levels from getting too high for people to afford.
Today’s vote is historic. I hope the outcome is, too.
Extraordinary meeting of the London Assembly, Tuesday 03 September 3.30pm, Chamber at City Hall