March 9 2014 Latest news:
by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Boris Johnson has bypassed the town hall by calling in plans to build nearly 700 homes at the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site.
The Mayor of London made his ruling yesterday (January 21) after the newly-privatised company asked him to step in over the future of London’s largest building site – in Farringdon Road.
Campaigners against the project, which will provide only 12 per cent affordable housing, were outraged by the Mayor’s decision and Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts called the move “premature and unjustified” and executive member for housing and development Cllr James Murray branded Boris “outrageous”.
The Mayor’s office said the decision was made to speed up the process, but estimated Johnson would not be making a decision until the summer, while the plans were due to go before Camden and Islington councils in February and March respectively.
Cllr Watts said, “We are extremely disappointed to hear that the Mayor has decided to take away local decision making from local areas.
“There are no justifiable reasons for calling in the proposals and the decision is premature and unjustified.
“We are firmly committed to encouraging, enabling and supporting the proper development of the site but the current offer of just 12pc affordable housing is just not good enough.”
But Boris said that the homes were needed now. “London is growing at an unprecedented rate and it is vital that we get on with the important work of building thousands of new homes as quickly as we can,” he said.
“By taking over this application it should be possible to speed up the decision making process.
“My team will be working closely with the local authorities and Royal Mail without further delay.”
The Mount Pleasant Forum, a group that represents the communities living close to the site, issued a two-minute video pleading with the Mayor not to call the decision in.
They say the fact that the site is surrounded by five conservation areas and established communities means the Royal Mail’s plans for high-rise housing would be a “disaster”.
Edward Denison, speaking on behalf of the forum, said: “He’s going to pass it. This is a strategic plan from the Royal Mail, and to add insult to injury, it has reduced affordable housing from 20pc to 12pc because it knew it won’t make a difference now.
“There is no way the Mayor would have called it in otherwise. Royal Mail knew the councils would’ve turned it down.”
The company made the request under Article 7 of the Town & Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008, which states that the Mayor can step in on developments that “have a significant impact on the implementation of the spatial development strategy”.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The redevelopment will help regenerate the local neighbourhoods, creating new public spaces and offering up to 680 new homes, including affordable housing.
“It will also provide 1,250 new jobs in the wider economy if it gets the go-ahead.”