Boris backs out of planning

Niki May Young
Thursday 19 Jun 2008

London's new Mayor to announce delegation of planning powers

While Boris Johnson, London's new Mayor, will use the launch of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) tonight to unveil plans for city development, he is also expected to announce the delegation of his Local and Town and Country planning and development functions to Deputies. The shocking move will mean that Johnson has absolved himself of overseeing the planning and development for all of London.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone expressed his disappointment to WAN and urged that we ask Johnson why he would give up the opportunity to view approximately 300 top project proposals a year, a task which Livingstone had felt honoured to be able to perform.

In the first Mayor's report to Assembly, held yesterday and subsequently passed to WAN, Johnson's plans are outlined. He states:

“I have agreed to delegate to Deputy Mayor, Government Relations, my function in relation to local development plan consultation and the formal issue of an opinion on general conformity at the submission stage,” it continues, “I have also agreed to delegate my functions under the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Orders 2000 and 2008 in relation to all planning applications referred to the Mayor of London, including those already received by the Greater London Authority.”

Johnson, however, plans to cancel delegations made by Livingstone for planning applications for the Olympic Park and St Katherine Dock. The former Mayor brandished Johnson as 'lazy' but Peter Bishop, Director of Design for London recently punted as Boris's 'Design Tsar', hinted that London architecture and development had been sidelined by Boris in favour of concentrating on issues of crime and transport. He added: “He's only been in the role for 6 weeks so they're still finding their feet, it's early days. Today is Boris's birthday and he's coming tonight, I think that shows a level of commitment.”

Johnson has been criticised for commandeering the LFA and taking credit for Livingstone's hard work. One WAN reader stated: “It's a wonderful thing that Boris is developing a London vision....but, (as with other announcements such as Oyster cards on Great Western) he seems to be claiming credit for many Ken Livingstone ideas. Bicycle superhighway plans costed at £500million were proposed by Ken in February. New look Victoria Embankment was proposed by Ken last November...Las Ramblas-style boulevards were also backed by Ken in November. One of Ken's big ideas was to finance a lot of public gain with monies from developers, in part by letting them build skyscrapers.”

Johnson's plans outline three main areas where skyscrapers can be built which would help to protect London's existing skyline, but could create a funding gap. While Livingstone's 'dictator' approach to planning has also been criticised, the credit crunch in the UK is hitting development hard: the devolution of Johnson's planning duties could leave the development industry with a sense of abandonment by the new Mayor.

Niki May Young
News Editor

***UPDATE *** During the official launch of the LFA tonight Boris Johnson made a speech stating that he is not opposed to all tall buildings and that he wants to encourage architecture which will 'excite and delight visitors'. He advised that he would employ a fresh panel of people to 'help a new mayor in his vision to beautify public spaces'. WAN asked Johnson Ken's question: "Why then have you devolved all of your planning powers?" A bemused Johnson declined to comment as he was led away by minders. We will update you in due course.

Key Facts:

Urban design
United Kingdom

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