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Boroughs & Covid-19: update

The London Forum of Amenity & Civic Societies —members of Just Space and one of the partners in our campaign to defend democracy & participation during the pandemic— has sent this update, reporting on their survey of London Boroughs by Paul Thornton:

“Following … two Zoom meetings and the many contributions from member societies, we have consolidated the current state of play and our recommendations on best practice in an interim report available on the London Forum website via this link.

In general, the picture is better than we might have imagined. The transfer of Planning online has gone reasonably smoothly, it has had benefits as well as drawbacks, and some of our greatest concerns (greater use of delegated powers, loss of speaking rights at Council committees etc) have either not materialised or been confined to a handful of boroughs. Continue reading

Ministry defensive on virtual meetings

8 May: The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the ministry responsible for the planning system in England) has responded to the letter from Just Space and a number of bigger and national networks in which we had defended transparent and democratic features of the planning system and called for government action.

The ministry’s reply is mainly defensive, arguing that their priority has been to keep the planning system functioning and to give local authorities the flexibility to innovate in how they do that. [The implication seems to be that it’s up to the council how they proceed; complain to them if you are unhappy.] Continue reading

Don’t let Coronavirus be an excuse for making planning less democratic

A joint statement by Just Space, CPRE London, Friends of the Earth and London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies 

published 27 April, 2020 to be sent to councillors, GLA officers and assembly members and others. Please circulate widely and discuss what we do next.  This was the subject of a segment in BBC Radio 4 The World Tonight on 27th April. Listen here or download as podcast. In news items at start, then report at about 13th minute. Continue reading

Virtual meetings

Because of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis none of our member organisations can hold their meetings and many have been seeking advice on how to switch to online meetings.

In response we are putting together some advice for community organisations, drawing. on Just Space member organisations and a wide network of people across Europe facing the same problems.  It’s in the form of a document which anyone can read, print or edit so please add your own experience where you think that can make it more helpful. In just 24 hours it’s already become worth publishing. It’s at

Continue reading

More ‘reforms’ for English planning

14 March 2020 The government publishes proposals for changes to planning in England at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/robert-jenrick-plans-for-the-future-to-get-britain-building

Paul Burnham comments: Both this document and the letter to the Mayor (see previous post) share this objective, ‘Everyone should have the chance to save for and buy their own home so they can have a stake in society.’

In other words, home ownership is seen as full citizenship, and to be a renter (or homeless) is to be outside society, and not to be able or willing to share in its progress – or to be concerned about ‘society’ in the same way.

Continue reading

Labour leader defends Plan

Following our letter of 3 February asking members of the London Assembly to reject the Plan (our letter is the previous post here), we received a prompt reply on 5 February from Nicky Gavron, planning spokesperson for the Labour group of AMs. She writes:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the upcoming Plenary Session at the London Assembly to approve the Mayor of London’s new London Plan. [1000h at City Hall, Thursday 6 February, open to all – ed]

Writing and implementing the London Plan is one of the most significant powers the Mayor has, and as Assembly Members our responsibility to scrutinise and approve the plan

As Planning Spokesperson for the Labour Group on the Assembly, I am responding to the points you raised with my colleagues below.

Continue reading

Assembly urged to reject Plan

Call to reject this London Plan

Letter sent to all Members of the London Assembly on 3 February 2020

On 6 February the Assembly will consider the Mayor’s draft new London Plan before the GLA has received the Secretary of State’s formal response to the Plan.  The SoS has written that he will provide his response on or by 17 February, so the 6 February debate is procedurally unfair and irrational as Assembly members should have an opportunity to study the response before deciding on the Plan.  We question the logic and lawfulness of this 6 February decision and urge Assembly Members to defer their decision to the 6 March meeting.

The draft new London Plan should not be adopted. Just Space and its many member groups challenged the draft plan on many deficiencies throughout its progress, have chalked up some small gains but it remains a Plan which will further deepen inequalities in the city and fall badly short on environment.

The emperor has no clothes. We call upon the Assembly to send it back for a complete re-think. Continue reading

London Plan: end game

The draft New London Plan is close to the end of its progress towards final adoption. As Just Space and its member groups get to grips with the near-final version we gather here some responses from members. More are welcome.

As at New Year 2020 the situation  is this: On 9 December the Mayor issued the version of the Plan he ‘intends to publish’, incorporating changes recommended by the Panel of Inspectors. At the same time he published his responses to the Panel, including his reasons for rejecting some of their recommendations. All these documents can be found at https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/intend-publish-london-plan-2019.  The Secretary of State has until 20th January to direct any changes. After that the London Assembly gets to consider it but can only accept it or, by a 2/3 majority, reject it entirely. Then it becomes the adopted Plan.

UPDATE 23 January: The London Assembly Planning Committee held a Q&A with London Plan staff today and the webcast is available https://www.london.gov.uk/planning-committee-2020-01-23. We also learn (via Kate Gordon, FoE) that the GLA expects to have the Secretary of State’s response on 17 February.

What were we looking for? After 2 years of work, Just Space and its member groups submitted our own Community-led plan for London and this 10-point summary in 2017:

The Mayor should…

  1.  …put in place a programme of effective, meaningful and continuous engagement – underpinned by the principles of inclusion and fairness – that enables all Londoners to work with the Mayor and officers in a spirit of co-operation and in co-production of the new London Plan and all the Mayor’s Strategies. Deep changes are needed in the governance of the city and this is a starting point.
  2. …develop a London Housing Bill to give the Mayor devolved powers to bring housing reform in London, especially city wide rent control for private renters, regulation of landlords through mandatory landlord licensing across London and meeting the challenge of providing not-for-profit, social rented housing.   The term “affordable housing” should be removed in any documents produced by the Mayor.
  3.  …care for existing homes, neighbourhoods and communities and respond to high levels of fuel poverty by scaling up refurbishment and retrofit programmes and protecting existing council housing and housing association estates.
  4.  …foster a more localised, fair and green economy that acknowledges the diversity found in high streets and industrial estates such as low cost workspace, light industrial units, warehouses, studios and sheds, as a strength and a driver of the city’s future well being.
  5. …promote affordable and accessible public transport, supported by revenue from road user charging to tackle congestion and pollution.
  6.  …care for the environment by making London a Blue Green City, placing value on the connection and interaction between London’s blue and green assets such as green spaces, waterways, nature and air quality.
  7. …require Social Impact Assessments to be undertaken to measure and calculate the impact of development proposals on existing residents and businesses in neighbourhoods being considered for substantial change.
  8. …support Lifetime Neighbourhoods, scaled up to Lifetime Suburbs in Outer London, providing key amenities and job opportunities locally, thus reducing the need for costly and polluting travel.
  9. …place a moratorium on any more Opportunity Areas, bringing forward an evaluation and review of successes and failures so far and a new model of regeneration that prioritises social sustainability and social infrastructure and embeds more democratic and participatory mechanisms into the regeneration of areas.
  10. …develop new indicators for measuring the success of the city, such as the % of the labour force that has a secure job that pays at least the London Living Wage, and measuring life satisfaction using wellbeing surveys.

and then we made detailed comments on the consultation draft Plan, followed by individual submissions on most of the issues considered by the Panel of inspectors at the Examination in Public. We estimate that 83 community groups took part and spoke at the hearings of the Examination in Public, some directly invited and others using the Just Space ‘hot seat’.

Here are comments and assessments contributed by members/ groups:

Friends of the Earth comments on the whole Plan from an environmental point of view FoE on London Plan panel

London Forum provisional comment, likely to be superseded soon London Plan 2019 Examiners Report – Peter Eversden

Just Space Economy and Planning group on industrial and workplace issues JSEP Industry workspace comments

Natasha Sivanandan (Haringey Community Campaign) writes a short comment on Equalities & call for challenges to the Mayor at the next Question Time on 23 January
[N Sivanandan A Dream for Developers], adding:
I think the following are 2 things all in JS can agree on because (a) we said so at the EIP on behalf of JS and (b)  the Inspectors have rejected everything we said on these 2 issues.  They are:
1.  The Inspectors have ignored all our submissions on the Mayor’s failure to consult properly and particularly with groups with “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act 2010, and they have failed to have regard to the leading Supreme Court caselaw on consultation that we cited in our evidence to the EIP.
2.  The Inspectors have failed to properly consider or respond to our detailed evidence and legal submissions on the Mayor’s failure to have regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and as a conequence the London Plan is unlawful and lets down some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Meenakshi Sharma (Ilford  NOISE) on Equalities aspects (and a more detailed version may follow) Equalities and IIA Ilford Noise

Michael Edwards on positive gains in the Plan Edwards positive gains

John Cox (GUA and Brent Cross Alliance) on Transport Transport comments John Cox

Paul Burnham (Haringey DCF) on housing highlights Housing highlights in NLP Burnham

Jennifer Robinson on Viability & Opportunity Areas Robinson Comments on Panel


Assessments by other people or organisations:

Duncan Bowie article in October 2019 Town and Country Planning, ending with comments on the Panel Report Bowie TCP article on London Plan.Oct 2019

Blog post from Lichfields

Urban Design London, report on discussion – mainly among Borough officers, clearly – on design aspects of the Panel report, mainly Small Sites. Download contains 5 copies of this picture

Screenshot 2020-01-10 at 16.18.00

Consultants Barton Willmore are blogging, initially on the aggregate housing targets & failure to “meet housing needs” with GL. http://bartonwillmore.co.uk/Knowledge/News/2019/What-next-for-the-London-Plan

Similarly, in a very brief note, consultant Iceni Projects speculate on whether the Secretary of State might overrule the Mayor on housing targets https://www.iceniprojects.com/5095-2