Thanks to Francis Mallinson of Dialogue, (firstname.lastname@example.org) for this.
The Mayor of London has been given increased powers by Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State; these measures have some significant implications for the planning and political process in London.
The measures include:
• Mayor to produce a London Housing Strategy and Housing Investment Plan
• Mayor to decide the broad distribution of affordable housing provision money from the regional housing pot
• The Mayor will be able to direct changes to London boroughs’ programmes for Local development Plans (LDFs)
• The Mayor will be able to determine planning applications of ‘major strategic importance’
• The mayor will have a ‘stronger say’ on whether draft LDFs are in line with the London Plan
• Mayor to publish a statutory Climate Change and Energy strategy – directing how the capital should reduce emissions and energy use
• The Mayor will consider views of the Assembly and functional bodies when publishing or revising strategies, but will be able to disregard these if justification is provided.
The two key powers in this list are under the ‘Planning’ section.
Planning inspectors examining draft LDF planning policy documents will now be required to consider the Mayor’s opinion on whether they conform with his London Plan policy at the start of this process. This means Ken Livingstone will have a considerable amount of power to direct the development strategies/plans of the London boroughs (if the Planning Inspector decides to support his comments).
The Mayor will also be able to decide on ‘strategic’ planning applications (i.e. very large or strategically important developments) so that all relevant regional planning policies are taken into account – i.e. Ken Livingstone will take responsibility for granting planning consent from the local council.
This is a key change in powers, though there are several permutations (alternatively, the Mayor can ask that he is consulted again by local authorities, or leave the application alone). There are guidelines for which planning applications can be ‘called in’ like this and there will be a limited number of such decisions a year.
Such decisions will be subject to certain criteria (to be consulted on) and a policy text similar to the Secretary of State’s for nationwide planning applications.
All this makes for interesting reading:
• Local Authorities will be more aware of how their new planning policies should fit with the London Plan, and how the Mayor may seek them to be changed
• Organisations making very large planning applications should be aware of the GLA Planning Department and Mayor’s increased importance as stakeholders that should be communicated with/lobbied in the planning process (with the sensitive approach used for other decision makers)
• The Mayor’s new powers to decide major planning applications could lead to a more politicised decision making process. Press coverage suggests that this will be used to push through planning applications against the wishes of the London boroughs – likely to be large scale housing applications in the London Plan’s priority areas
• All of which is in light of the approaching 2008 London Mayor elections.