Proposals to increase the number of planning applications decided by the Mayor have been slammed as a “power-grab from local councils” by Greens on the London Assembly.
On Friday government ministers published a “comprehensive plan” they claim will boost the UK’s productivity and raise living standards across the country.
Central to the plan is a proposal to rebalance the economy away from its current London-bias by creating new mayors outside the capital who would have powers to ensure their regions can compete with London for jobs and investment.
Within the capital ministers have proposed allowing the Mayor to decide planning applications for all developments which include 50 or more homes, a move hailed as further devolution by both the Treasury and City Hall.
However Green Party AM Darren Johnson says the move represents a shift away from local decision making towards a more centralised planning system which will ultimately have only “a negligible impact on London’s housing crisis.”
Earlier this year Mayor Johnson angered local residents and housing campaigners when he used his existing powers to approve an application to build 700 homes at Mount Pleasant despite the scheme providing just 163 affordable units.
By allowing the Mayor to call in more applications there are concerns that local politicians and residents will lose their voice in the planning process and that City Hall will make decisions on a regional rather than borough basis.
Mr Johnson AM said he backed a government proposal to allow homeowners to build extra levels to their homes without having to obtain planning permission, a change he said offered “huge potential to meet London’s housing shortage”.
Other proposals in today’s plan include increasing the number of Housing Zones in the capital from 20 to 30 and giving the Mayor responsibility over sight lines and the safeguarding of wharves.
Mayor Johnson said the overall package of powers would “speed up the planning process and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy that can often delay the construction of new homes”.
However Nicky Gavron, Labour’s planning spokesman on the London Assembly, dismissed today’s announcement as “a rehash of old policies that tinker at the edge of what we need.”
She added: “There are already over 260,000 homes with planning permission in London, what we need isn’t more planning, it’s those homes being actually being built.
“If the Chancellor was serious about tackling London’s housing crisis he would reverse his deep cuts to affordable house building grants, lift the borrowing cap that is preventing councils from building and stop developers sitting on land for years without building.”