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The Listen to Locals Ten: Planning advice for the next Mayor of London

Updated: May 13, 2021

1. Post Pandemic communities

The pandemic has exposed vast inequalities across London in health, wellbeing and opportunity, underpinned by numerous factors including housing and neighbourhood design. No one will forget the plight of high-rise tenants during lockdown unable to access space and light, when it was becoming clear that these two amenities were integral to public health and wellbeing. At the same time the pandemic has revealed the power of communities to create change in their localities.

The next mayor of London must accept learnings from the pandemic and integrate these into planning processes and decisions.

2. Community-led planning alternatives

In addition to the dedication and commitment that drive community groups to improve their locality, Local knowledge and expertise play a significant role in supporting a community’s capacity to contribute to and engage with the planning process. In many cases community groups have developed viable alternatives to plans that are imposed on them, yet these alternative plans are seldom considered by planning authorities.

The next mayor of London must ensure that community-led plans are considered as a vital part of the planning process

3. Transparency & Trust in planning system

Trust in the planning system is almost non-existent. When it comes to planning for large-scale development, just 2% of the public trust developers and only 7% trust local authorities” (Grosvenor survey, 2019). Lack of transparency is key to this distrust along with the perception that developers and LAs are only interested in making money. The pandemic has exposed this as planning applications and the underlying consultation processes went exclusively online, limiting access to information and excluding many from engaging in the process.

The next mayor of London must provide mechanisms to improve transparency and programmes to build trust between City Hall, Local Authorities and local communities.

4. Opportunity Areas

Opportunity Areas, a key part of the London Plan, have been a significant focus of the current mayor in connecting job growth and housing development by regenerating large brownfield sites for housing and commercial use A flagship OA at Nine Elms was revealed earlier this year to have “designed in” separation of market homes from affordable ones and the exclusion of large groups of residents from amenities and activities on the site, effectively segregating communities.

The next mayor of London must demonstrate how OAs will become more inclusive and deliver benefits to all who live and work there.

5. Mayoral Statement on Community Involvement

Communities are underrepresented and their knowledge and contribution under-valued in the development process, even though their involvement creates places that are more successful. Currently the Mayor does not set a clear expectation for community engagement; a Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (MSCI) would address this by setting out city-wide requirements and standards for meaningful community involvement; and specifically by seeking to ensure that development is founded on evidence of real need and community support.

The next Mayor of London must set out and continually update a MSCI

6. De-Greening of London’s neighbourhoods

Despite the pandemic’s message on improving access to green space for public health benefit, we are seeing increasing attempts to claw back green space on major developments, including land under forms of protection such as MoL and OoLTI . The developers granted permission to build on this land seldom replace the lost space elsewhere.

The next mayor of London must commit to achieving net gain of green space in all permitted developments.

7. Air quality

This year saw the first high court ruling on death caused by air pollution, in the tragic case of Ella Kissi-Debrah who died age 9 from a respiratory condition exacerbated by living on the highly polluted South Circular Road. City Hall has acknowledged this tragedy and vowed to improve air quality through such measures as the expansion of ULEZ. However high-emission projects such as Silvertown Tunnel continue to be funded and supported.

The next mayor of London must eliminate any proposed project that does not demonstrate a net zero emission score.

8. Developers access to City Hall

City Hall has used its authority to call in planning applications from local councils more in the last 4 years than the previous 10, and has given unchallenged powers to developers to build across London, often at the expense of local communities. An FOI request from the MBCG recently revealed 23 meetings between the Mayor’s team and the developer applicant for the 6 months since call-in while during the same period requests for meetings with the local community group were ignored. This has prompted some observers to describe The GLA Planning team as “an extension of the CSR function for developers”.

The next Mayor of London must provide equal access to developers and community groups to discussions and decisions on planning applications

9. Responding to Crises and unforeseen events

The pandemic has powerfully shown us how unpredictable our lives are, and has demonstrated the need for quick-footed, flexible and inclusive responses to crises, be they related to public health, transport, or infrastructure. The sudden and prolonged closure at Hammersmith Bridge has disrupted the lives of thousands of residents and revealed a lack of foresight and preparedness with dire consequences.

The next Mayor of London must demonstrate preparedness for crises and unforeseen events with the potential to impact Londoners.

10. Permitted Development Rights

The government’s recent relaxation of permitted development means that significant change can occur on high streets outside of the planning process and without any community involvement. Converting shops and offices to housing sounds like an easy solution to housing shortages but often results in poor-quality unaffordable homes.

The next mayor of London must demonstrate how community groups will have a say in all permitted developments.


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