City Hall will continue to oppose plans by Enfield Council to designate part of the Green Belt for new housing, Mayor Khan confirmed yesterday, in a stance rapidly welcomed by Labour-run Enfield’s Tory opposition leader Joanne Laban.
Enfield’s draft Local Plan, now out for consultation, identifies sites for some 6,000 new homes in the Green Belt, which constitutes a third of the borough’s land area. The council has more than 3,500 families in temporary accommodation, the second highest number in the country, and faces “difficult choices about where growth can be placed”, said council leader Nesil Caliskan.
Pressed by Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff, the Mayor told AMs at his monthly Question Time session that City Hall’s London Plan, the development blueprint for the capital, was “quite clear” in its commitment to “preserving and enhancing” the protected zone. Green Belt land forms the “lungs of our city”, he said.
In a session underlining the housing challenges in a city where some 60,000 homeless households are currently placed in temporary accommodation, Khan was under pressure too from newly-elected Tory AM Emma Best as to whether he was waging a “war on the suburbs” by approving schemes rejected by council planning committees.
Khan responded that councillors often lobby City Hall to take over schemes and his interventions had brought improvements, including an average of 40 per cent affordable homes agreed on applications referred to him.
He also rejected Best’s call for City Hall to set overall targets for new family-size homes or city-wide rules on tall buildings. The boroughs were best placed to decide their own requirements, he said, while his focus was on “encouraging more sub-market family homes” rather than market value family housing, which was “unaffordable for the vast majority of Londoners.”
The Mayor was guarded in responding to Labour’s Sakina Sheikh, another new AM, who brought recent controversy over the Embassy Gardens “skypool” in the Nine Elms development, saying the development had given Londoners an “insight into social segregation by design”. The scheme was given consent by Conservative-run Wandsworth Council when Boris Johnson was London Mayor.
The problem was the “cross-subsidy” model, where private housing sales supported the building of affordable homes, Khan said. “The only way you get round that is to get more support from central government to build more genuinely affordable homes.”
Khan pledged to continue lobbying against expanded “permitted development” rules and changes to planning laws allowing development in designated “growth” areas without the need for individual planning consent. “People across the country are unhappy with command and control from Whitehall,” Khan said.
There was a warning too that London could see an eviction “storm” with the government’s ban on evictions of private tenants during the pandemic coming to an end. The ban should be extended, Khan said. “This September we could see a significant number of families evicted unless the government steps in.”
It was left to Green Party AM and mayoral candidate Sian Berry to offer a positive suggestion, particularly for getting housing built on smaller sites. Boroughs need more support in finding these, she said, urging Khan to consider her manifesto proposal for a London-wide “People’s Land Commission”, which would involve local communities in “bottom-up site identification”. Khan agreed to meet her to discuss the proposal.
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