Labour group fails in bid to block London Plan revisions

Controversial changes to the London mayor's strategic planning document which would prevent the capital's boroughs from setting rent targets for a new form of affordable housing in their local plans will go ahead after a vote yesterday.

City Hall: crucial vote on changes to strategic planning document the London Plan
City Hall: crucial vote on changes to strategic planning document the London Plan

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During an extraordinary plenary session yesterday afternoon, the London Assembly’s Labour group, which has 12 of the assembly’s 25 members, failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to block the alterations to the London Plan. Members voted by 13 votes to nine to reject the alterations, short of the two-thirds majority required.

Boris Johnson’s proposed revised early minor alterations to the London Plan seek to prohibit boroughs from setting rent caps or targets for affordable rented homes in their local development frameworks.

Under the affordable rent mechanism – a new way to fund social housing with much lower capital grants and higher rents – rents are charged at up to a maximum of 80 per cent of local market rents.

The mayor’s proposed changes to the London Plan state that boroughs "should not attempt to set rent targets for affordable rented housing in their local development frameworks as this is likely to impede maximization of affordable housing provision London-wide".

Nicky Gavron, the London Assembly Labour group’s planning spokeswoman, said that yesterday’s vote was a "hammer blow" and signaled the "death of new truly affordable housing from the affordable rent product in London".

She said: "The mayor’s changes will make London’s housing crisis even worse. They will now push affordable housing out of the reach of many Londoners on low, and in some areas, modest incomes. This will also drive up rent, increase land prices and further distort London’s housing market."

The proposed changes had been opposed by a group of nine London boroughs and were criticised by inspector Geoff Salter in an examination report published by the Greater London Authority last month.

The report called on the mayor to "omit references preventing the boroughs from imposing rent caps or criteria for the definition of affordable housing in their own development plan documents", adding that the wording was "overly prescriptive and should be deleted".

But in his response, the mayor dismissed the inspector’s recommendation to delete the wording.

Planning requested a statement from the mayor's office, but had yet to receive one at the time of this story's publication.

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