Camden Council’s deputy leader Sue Vincent has spoken out to warn that councils across London will be very worried about the Mayor of London’s decision to decide on planning applications. Mayor Boris Johnson has been criticised after he overruled Camden Council when they refused planning permission for a new office block in Fitzrovia.
Speaking to Matt Cooke of BBC London News in a report broadcast on Saturday she said: “Local authorities will be very worried and concerned about the implications of this decision that the mayor has taken. It will have a big impact on the ability of local authorities not only to provide affordable housing but other amenities that local communities need in their neighbourhood.”
Max Neufeld of the Charlotte Street Association and a resident in Fitzrovia since the 1950s told the BBC that the proposed development was wrong for the area and that Camden Council had refused it on sound planning grounds.
“They will put more than a thousand extra people on this site and they will only provide a postage stamp-sized open space. So the pressure on what open space we have will automatically go up,” said Neufeld.
With new developments over a certain size the local authority can impose a planning gain contribution from developers to provide public amenities. Previously central government would provide a social housing grant to help local authorities provide homes. The grant could be used with money or payment in kind from developers to deliver affordable homes on or around any new commercial development. But since the coalition government abolished the grant in 2010 the funding gap to provide homes has got bigger.
This has now been made worse by the Mayor of London imposing a Crossrail levy on new developments. Once the mayor has taken his Crossrail cut the local authority has to divide the money left over amongst a number of competing demands. The result is that money for social housing, education, open space, highways, etc, has got much smaller.
Neufeld says that the UK is “the only country in western Europe to rely on a tax on development to pay for all these amenities. There is all the incentive to overdevelop”.