Boris Johnson and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government were today condemned for disregarding the government’s own planning policy in order to protect the political interests of the Mayor. I proposed a motion in the London Assembly urging both the Mayor of London and Eric Pickles not to force through alterations to the London Plan, despite the recommendations of an independent Inspector.
My motion, which passed by an overwhelming 13-4, follows the Mayor’s changes to the London Plan (the strategic planning document for the capital), which now requires boroughs to ensure that affordable rented housing can be charged at the full 80% of market rent on all schemes except those where boroughs provide extra funding to keep rents lower. In September a majority of the London Assembly voted to reject the new London Plan but the Conservatives prevented us reaching the two-thirds majority required to block Mayoral strategies.
Two men in a smoke-free room – Mayor Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Eric Pickles – ignored the warnings of the boroughs, the Assembly, and an independent planning inspector, to force through a policy that will make huge swathes of London unaffordable to those on low and modest incomes. The Mayor’s changes will make London’s housing crisis even worse and he must reconsider the changes he has made to the London Plan.
The Secretary of State says the changes comply with national planning policy, when they clearly do not. Pickles has enabled the inspector’s decision not to bind the Mayor but the Mayor’s decision binds the boroughs.
Affordable housing is being pushed out of the reach of many Londoners on low, and in some areas, modest incomes. This will drive up rent, increase land prices and further distort London’s housing market. Boris should have listened to local authorities and accepted the recommendations of the Independent Planning Inspector.
Here is the text of the motion:
Motion in the name of Nicky Gavron AM, to be seconded by Tom Copley AM:
“This Assembly condemns the Mayor’s decision to ignore the recommendations of the independent Inspector of the Revised Early Minor Alterations (REMA) to the London Plan. We also condemn the Secretary of State’s decision to approve the plan despite the Mayor failing to accept the Inspector’s recommendations.
The Inspector, sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity, explicitly outlines in paragraph 5 of his report that “changes… are needed to make the revised LP sound and legally compliant”. These changes, required to make the REMA compliant with national policy as defined by the National Planning Policy Framework, have been entirely ignored by the Mayor and, consequently, the Secretary of State.
Unlike local authorities, the Mayor correctly outlines that he is not legally obliged to adopt recommendations by planning inspectors in relation to the London Plan. However, the London Plan must be compliant with national planning law and the Inspector is clear that this is not currently the case. As the Inspector highlights of just one part of the REMA:
“The broad thrust of government policy in the NPPF for affordable housing has two key strands: to maximise necessary provision and deliver a wide choice of homes, including meeting affordable needs. The overarching objective of the policy would not be met if provision were to be maximised but the Boroughs could not meet the NPPF requirement to meet objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in their own area.”
It is this Assembly’s view that the Secretary of State has made an error in approving the revised Plan, which is clearly not compliant with national planning law, and we wish him to reconsider his decision.”