Does the draft plan meet legal requirements for sustainability appraisal and strategic environmental assessment?
Draft London Plan Examination in Public (EiP) 15 January 2019
Day One: Opening Statements and Matter One
Warning: Just Space and UCL are trying to make available some sort of record of what happens in the EiP for the benefit of community members. Notes are being taken by students and checked/edited so far as possible by more experienced staff and others. Neither Just Space nor UCL offers any guarantee of the accuracy of these notes. If you wish to depend on what was said at the EiP you should check with the speaker or with the audio recordings being made by the GLA. If you spot mistakes in these notes please help us to correct them by emailing m.edwards at ucl.ac.uk
Panel’s Opening Announcements
The panel of inspectors opened the session by asking that participants engage in structured discussions around the matters highlighted on the agenda. Further stating that the purpose of the sessions was to assist in the Inspectorate’s decision on whether the plan is sound.
Introductory address on behalf of the Mayor of London
On behalf of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (GLA) Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor, made an opening statement which is available here in full. In summary, the Deputy Mayor stressed the importance of remembering the context in which the London Plan was conceived, that the plan is intended to be holistic in its approach and that is underpinned by the six Good Growth (GG) policies:
– Building strong and inclusive communities
– Making the best use of land
– Creating a healthy city
– Delivering the homes Londoners need
– Growing a good economy
– Increasing efficiency and resilience
Mr. Pipe stressed that the adoption of the plan is fundamental to accommodate the impending growth, especially in these uncertain times.
MATTER 1. SUSTAINABILITY APPRAISAL (bold type denotes the questions posed by the Panel in advance of the session)
M1. Does the Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA) and Addendum Report (NLP/CD/04 & 05) meet legal and national policy requirements relating to sustainability appraisal and strategic environmental assessment? In particular:
- a) Is it suitably comprehensive and has it sufficiently evaluated reasonable alternatives and does it provide a basis for future monitoring?
The inspector summarised the basic approach taken by the Integrated Impact Assessment (IIA); 24 objectives identified under six themes (the GG policies) were used to assess five options for the New London Plan. From this the inspector identified six key questions which were asked of the GLA after which other attendees were invited to comment.
- Has IIA shaped London plan? (10 am)
It was clarified by the GLA that the New London Plan and the IIA were developed and published at the same time. There had been interaction between the 2 processes.
Ian Gordon (LSE London Group) questioned who had selected the adopted approaches presented in the plan, independent consultant (Arup) or the GLA. GLA representative Jennifer Peters, clarified that the preferred approaches identified in the plan were the GLA’s not the independent consultants’.
Robin Brown (Just Space) stressed that early and effective engagement is required under the SEA Directive to commence no later than Stage B of the assessment process (i.e. scoping). It was argued that the general public had not been given the opportunity to engage with the plan at an early enough stage in the process to have a meaningful and effective influence. In response the GLA representatives stated that they had consulted with the statutory consultees at scoping stage. Moreover, stating that they acknowledged the need for further engagement and so held six workshops labelled ‘City for all Londoners’, each of which attracted 120 attendees. GLA representatives also highlighted their use of social media to reach a broader range of people.
- Has consideration of alternatives been adequate? (10:15 am)
Inspectors questioned where the GG policies were derived from. GLA representative Jennifer Peters responded that they were the product of the ‘City for all Londoners’ consultations. Michael Edwards, on behalf of Just Space, countered that the beginnings of what would become the spatial alternatives can be found in the previous mayor’s Infrastructure Plan 2050and so were crystallised prior to the consultations. GLA added that the strategies were a continuation of the previous mayors’ plans.
Ian Gordon (LSE) argued the options presented in the IIA are not sufficiently radical, especially on the rejected green belt options) and not enough detail was provided. To which the GLA countered that the IIA’s intended purpose was to highlight the significant likely impacts of each option to inform decision making; these assessments rely on the professional judgement of the consultant (Arup) and the GLA. Furthermore, Stephanie McGibbon (Arup), argues that because this was an assessment of the PanLondon spatial plan the IIA was not the place to have copious detail.
The Inspectors questioned whether the IIA had gone into enough detail, specifically regarding the selected approach (“sustainable intensification”). Arup replied that each option was assessed to the same level of detail to allow for an easy comparison.
Robin Brown (Just Space) added that the opening statement of the IIA is weak and does not adequately explain the origins of the options presented, urging the Mayor to consider rewriting this.
- Release of green belt land option
The representatives from the London Borough of Enfield were highly sceptical that the proposed plan adequately dealt with the issue of small sites and industrial land, arguing that the new plan prevents the borough of Enfield from delivering growth. Arup representatives responded by saying that the IIA doesn’t rule out any particular option, such as the one which releases green belt land, the impact assessment’s role is simply to outline the impacts.
- Have inequalities and health been given sufficient weight in the IIA? (11:11 am)
The discussion was opened by the Inspector asking the GLA about the methodological approach taken by the IIA in assessing equalities impacts. The GLA responded that the volume of information on the nine characteristics which protect people under the Equalities Act, 2010 (listed below) was too large to include in the IIA in its entirety but too little to make a decisive assessment of impact in some cases, hence the use of ‘?’ throughout the IIA. The protected characteristics are:
– gender reassignment;
– marriage and civil partnership;
– pregnancy and maternity;
– religion or belief;
– sex; and,
- sexual orientation.
Natasha Sivanandan, (StART & Just Space) strongly argued that the duty of the GLA to ensure that the London Plan does not create new, and exacerbate existing, inequalities is not fulfilled within the IIA. It was felt by many that the Equalities Impact Assessment undertaken within the framework of the IIA simply averaged out the impact the plan would have across the whole of London and failed to acknowledge the cumulative impact this would have on those already marginalised by societal and cultural mainstreams. Alex Bax (My Fair London) concurred, adding that these inequalities play out in a variety of spaces across the public domain and the IIA’s failure to systematically assess the impacts was a fundamental flaw in the plan. In a similar fashion the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations accused the plan and IIA of lacking ‘joined up thinking’, Ilinca Diaconescu (London Gypsies and Travellers) considered the nine protected characteristics were not systematically assessed throughout the IIA and Suzie Dye (Trust for London) argued that the integrated approach made it difficult for people in one or more of the protected groups to understand how the plan would affect them, calling for the impact assessments to be disaggregated and presented in plain English.
The GLA representatives responded by assuring the participants that these inequalities were systematically assessed across the nine groups and also in respect of socio-economic status but that data had not been published because it would have overwhelmed readers. Participants requested these assessments be published. [Note: see bottom. These assessments are to be published.]
Mhairi McGhee, from the Equality and Human Rights Network (HEAR), further questioned the GLA and Arup on the use of question marks when assessing impacts, suggesting that the GLA and Arup have a duty to find out this information and that stating that an impact is unknown is an invalid and unacceptable response in law. GLA representative, Rachael Rooney, replied by saying that the impacts cannot be known at a London-wide level due to the high level and strategic nature of the plan.
At this point the Inspectors called for a break. Discussions resumed at 11:47 am.
- Has the IIA properly assessed cumulative impacts? (11:47 am)
In response to the Inspector’s question the GLA stated that cumulative impacts have been assessed under each option respectively.
- Does the IIA give sufficient consideration to the monitoring of identified impacts?
The GLA representatives argued that monitoring had been considered to the appropriate standard and that it would have been premature to present identified Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in the IIA. This was countered by Robin Brown (Just Space) who referred to the SEA Directive guidance when stating that KPIs should have been explored and identified at stage B of the process (i.e. scoping). The representative from the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations supported this notion highlighting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as important, measurable, international standards used for monitoring the progress of sustainable development.
7. Have the recommendations made within the IIA been adequately addressed within the Plan?
In response to the Inspector’s question the GLA argued that the plan has taken into consideration the outcomes of the IIA. No other parties had further comments.
Notes by Emma Woodward
[Note to point 4. The detailed Equalities analysis which the GLA & Arups admtted had been carried out but not published are now to be made available. The Panel met and considered that the analysis was needed and should be made available to them by Monday 21 January. The Panel undertook that it would be published and that participants would have until 15 February to submit written comments if they felt it necessary. Later: this data is now available on the Examination web site. ]