London Assembly calls on mayor to name those behind call-in requests

The mayor of London should publish the identity of anyone lobbying for planning applications to be called in, the London Assembly's planning committee has recommended.

London City Hall (pic: chrisinphilly5448, Flickr)
London City Hall (pic: chrisinphilly5448, Flickr)

The committee has written to London mayor Sadiq Khan to recommend changes to the call-in process for strategic applications. 

Call-in requests should be discouraged and any that are received should be made public, the committee said, to allay any suspicions that applicants may be seeking to bypass the local democratic process.

"There is clearly the suspicion that an applicant might actively encourage the mayor to call in an application if they felt that mayor would be more likely to approve the application than the local borough planning authority," the committee said.

The committee also said the mayor should specify exactly how applications meet the policy tests for call-ins and ensure communities are given a greater role in site visits and representation hearings during the call-in process.

Call-ins should only be made when applications have the potential for a significant impact on the implementation of current London Plan policies; affect more than one borough; and when there are ‘sound planning reasons’ for mayoral intervention, the committee said. 

According to the committee, 35 applications have been called in since the mayor of London was granted powers to do so in 2008: 17 by Boris Johnson and 18 by Sadiq Khan.

Twenty-nine have been determined to date and all but one, the Charlton Riverside project, have been approved.

Andrew Boff, chair of the London Assembly planning committee, added: "Approved planning applications can have a huge impact on the landscape of communities, areas and boroughs in London. 

"That is why the decision on whether to grant planning permission or not, needs to be made on the basis of what’s best for London and the Londoners living in the area in question.

"Applicants who go straight to the mayor, raise suspicions that they are attempting to by-pass their local authority to obtain planning permission and this is not acceptable."

The mayor of London's office was approached for comment but it had yet to respond at time of publication. 

In October a High Court judge granted the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea permission to bring a judicial review against Khan's approval of a 30-storey tower. 

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