London mayor likely to use call-in powers 'sparingly', says housing deputy

London mayor Sadiq Khan is likely to use his powers to call in planning applications from boroughs 'sparingly', his deputy mayor for housing has said.

James Murray (centre) speaking at the event earlier today
James Murray (centre) speaking at the event earlier today

Former Islington councillor James Murray was speaking at a Conservative Party fringe event organised by the Westminster Property Association this morning.

Murray said the mayor wants to make sure that the London boroughs are moving in the same policy "direction" as the Greater London Authority (GLA).

The Labour deputy mayor said: "The idea should be to set a clear direction to make sure we are all pointing in that direction, and then use the call-in power sparingly if a particular application is not moving in that direction. 

"People often ask me: ‘Are you going to call lots more in, then?’ Actually, you want to be calling in relatively few applications because you want it to be quite clear about the direction you’re going and use that power more sparingly. What you are likely to see is the mayor using it consistently and clearly."

Previous mayor Boris Johnson angered some boroughs with his use of call-in powers, with intervention over major schemes including the redevelopment of the Mount Pleasant sorting office in north London.

Murray also said he is keen to improve the connection between new infrastructure and new housing. "It has tended to be a bit ad hoc. It needs to be much more joined up, so if you’re planning new transport investment you benefit from building new housing around the transport nodes, and you don’t build new housing without the transport. That has to be done as a single plan."

Elsewhere, Murray set out more details on the new viability supplementary planning guidance the GLA is preparing and is set to be published in draft form later this year.

Contrary to press reports in the summer, Murray confirmed that it would include a voluntary threshold, not a compulsory one. Because it is guidance, he said, it could not introduce a new compulsory affordable housing target and "has to hang off the London Plan".

According to reports, the GLA has been considering a 35 per cent affordable housing threshold, but Murray said the level is yet to be agreed.

Developers who achieve the threshold, he said, could be allowed "to bypass the need to provide detailed viability information" and "wouldn’t have to go through a long drawn-out process".

Murray also said that the GLA is preparing best practice guidance for estate regeneration. "Hopefully, we can set out a standard that councils and housing associations can follow to try and rebuild residents’ trust and show the idea of regeneration is good for improving the quality of life."

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