Sadiq Khan has told the government he intends to go ahead with formally approving his draft new London Plan later this month despite receiving no response from communities secretary Robert Jenrick to a request to make some final changes to its text.
In a letter sent exactly one year after Jenrick was provided with the version of the new Plan the Mayor wanted to publish, Khan expresses dissatisfaction that Jenrick’s department has failed to address the remaining issues despite City Hall requesting it to do so back in the spring.
While saying he recognises that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has “faced unprecedented challenges” from the pandemic, Khan also notes that the department “has had capacity to undertake other significant areas of work such as proposed changes to the planning system”.
Khan continued: “Given the impact of the pandemic on London, the development industry and the economy I believe publication of the London Plan should have been prioritised alongside that other work. As I have previously noted, what London needs right now is certainty and publication of the London Plan is crucial to London’s recovery.”
Publication of the London Plan, which is the capital’s overarching statutory blueprint for planning and spatial development, was slowed because Jenrick, whose approval for the Plan’s publication is legally required, directed Khan to make significant changes. In a tersely-worded letter dated 13 March, the Conservative minister also strongly criticised the Labour Mayor’s record on housing delivery and regeneration.
Jenrick’s letter, which was unusual for its polemical tone and for straying beyond matters relating to the content of the proposed new Plan, was sent shortly before the coronavirus pandemic brought about the postponement of the London Mayor election, which at the time was scheduled for 7 May this year.
Khan’s letter recounts his replying to Jenrick on 24 April, “setting out my intention to work constructively with you and the importance of published the London Plan as quickly as possible,” and says that City Hall officials took up an invitation to suggest “a small number of proposed amendments” to his formal directions “in order to make the directions workable in practice.” The letter ends: “I intend to take my decision on 21 December and send a copy of the Plan to you shortly thereafter.”
Jenrick’s assertive use of his ministerial powers to impose changes on Khan’s new Plan is seen as part of a wider pattern of national government moves to diminish the autonomy and limit the powers of the Mayor this year, mostly notably in the conditions it has attached to financial help provided to Transport for London.
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