Minor alterations to have a major impact

Yesterday afternoon the full Assembly considered the Mayor’s proposed alterations to the London Plan, the so-called Minor Alterations to the London Plan, or MALP.

I proposed a successful motion condemning the changes, sounding alarm bells at the loss of housing standards within the London Plan and stating concerns about the impact of a potential introduction of minimum car parking standards on air quality.

The Assembly also questioned the Deputy Mayor for Planning Sir Edward Lister about the proposed changes, and debated the issues at hand.

The mayor has chosen to call these “minor” alterations. But the impact of these newly imposed housing and car parking standards will have a major impact.

Take Housing Standards. Since the creation of the GLA we have been developing a really strong and effective series of policies that have dealt with everything from space standards to energy efficiency. But the Government has railroaded through its agenda and forced London to abandon these standards.

What does that mean for Londoners? It means at a time when over older population is peaking, we will have fewer homes adaptable for all stages of life. It means so little storage in the kitchen that you might have space for a waste bucket under your sink – forget about space for recycling. It means lower ceiling heights, exacerbating the urban heat island effect.

The story is the same on parking. London’s maximum car parking standards are designed to be enormously flexible, allowing up to two spaces per unit but giving local authorities wide discretion to provide more or less parking depending on local circumstances. The policy has been a cornerstone of our sustainable transport mission, and we’ve been highly successful in getting people out of their cars and onto bikes, buses, trains and feet

Again, we are losing that. The Government asked the Mayor to reconsider parking policies, but he went overboard. He is even opening up the prospect of boroughs imposing minimum car parking standards, despite the Government not asking for anything of the sort (in fact, the Government stated that it would prefer parking to be done on a case-by-case basis rather than applying a fixed standard).

The Mayor may have arbitrarily labelled these “minor” alterations, but these policy changes will have a major impact and damage the quality of Londoners’ lives. If someone came to you and said they wanted to make some minor tweaks to London, but the changes will mean fewer homes built, poorer quality and cramped housing, higher energy bills, worse air quality and more congested roads, then you would reply that those tweaks don’t sound very minor after all.

That’s what I think, and it’s what a majority of the London Assembly thinks as well. My motion was passed 12-9. Despite our concerns, however, it is likely that the MALP will be formally adopted in spring 2016.

 

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About nickygavron

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