The Mayor of London has substantial powers over housing and planning including the ability to set the spatial development strategy for the whole city which the local borough authorities must comply with. Mayoral authority has grown substantially since the Greater London Authority (GLA) was established in 1999, but a pull-back could be on the cards.
Last month, the government announced plans to reform the planning system
in England. The planning white paper is however very light on any references to London, raising questions about the Mayor’s future role. The Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper expected next month might answer these questions, but it is unclear whether the new mayoral and combined authorities it creates will see a levelling up, or whether London will see a levelling down.
The past nine months have seen a lot of proposed changes to planning in London and elsewhere. Since the start of the year, Mayor Sadiq Khan has been trying to publish his revised London Plan
, which sets out the Mayor’s policies on everything from affordable housing targets to land use specifications. Using powers afforded him by the GLA act, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Robert Jenrick blocked publication of the plan
, saying the Labour Mayor’s plans contradict national policy, as set by his Conservative government.
For the Mayor of London, the stakes are high. Unless the powers first set out in the GLA act are enshrined in new legislation, they could be curtailed or even lost. Clarity is also needed for London Councils trying to create their own plans, which must be in conformity with Mayoral guidelines (if and when these change
), whilst looking ahead to the requirements of the White Paper and grappling with all the uncertainties related to coronavirus. Developers too are in the dark, including those seeking to deliver the 69,300 homes granted planning permission in 2019 along with the thousands of commercial, retail and mixed-use permissions which will be impacted by early changes to the current planning system to be implemented from Autumn 2020.