Monday, 23 June 2014

Another regeneration scheme, another extension of Mayoral powers and another kick in the face for local democracy

Guest blog by Nic Lane on behalf of Brent Housing Action LINK and the Radical Housing Network LINK

Last week the members of Brent’s Citizen Panel were sent the following email:

“The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has recently outlined proposals to transform Old Oak and Park Royal into a thriving new district with up to 24,000 new homes and more than 55,000 jobs.

As part of this long term plan, the Mayor intends to create a new Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC) to unlock the enormous regeneration potential of this 950 hectares of industrial land at Old Oak Common and Park Royal in West London.

Please click here to find out more and to take part in the online consultation on Old Oak - Mayor's Development Corporation.

The consultation will run until Wednesday, 24 September 2014.”  

Residents are strongly urged to read the documentation that the link leads to; this is another classic example of BoJo's "monolith-o-maniacal" desire to stamp his personality all over London with a series of regeneration schemes and so-called iconic buildings in his run up to become PM (or possibly another Caesar given his latinate leanings).

It is only a couple of months ago that BoJo was publicly reprimanded in the London Assembly LINK for overusing his ability to veto the wishes of local government planning departments - even when these pet projects are in direct contravention of his own "London Plan" LINK Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s prospective 2015 parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, revealed at last Wednesday’s Swiss Cottage Action Group this looks very likely to happen again in the case of the development at 100 Avenue Road LINK due to the height of the proposed building.

The formation of the proposed Mayoral Development Corporation will create a nasty precedent which will give him further legal powers to ignore the wishes of any local democratic organisations, be they Councils or residents groups. This is made clear in the documentation:

“Within Old Oak and Park Royal, the Mayor intends for the new Corporation to take on powers relating to infrastructure, regeneration, land acquisitions including Compulsory Purchase Orders, adopting streets, and business and financial support. In addition, the Corporation would also take over planning powers from the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham. The Corporation would lead on preparing the local plans and determining large planning applications submitted within this area.” LINK

Even worse, this plan creates a noxious local parallel to the hugely under-reported Infrastructure Bill that is currently before Parliament. This bill - which is comparable to the Enclosure Acts in its land grabbing intent - allows for 90% of local authority "brownfield sites" to be parcelled out and sold on by the Homes and Communities Agency without reference to any other planning agency decisions or the wishes of the local residents. More information about this Bill can be found here LINK and here LINK 

It's also worth noting that the potency of the claim that the development will create "24,000 homes and 55,000 jobs" currently has all the strength of an homoeopathic remedy; there is no trace evidence of the type of homes or jobs the scheme will create. It's all a construct of BoJo's feverish imagination and desire to attract foreign investment to the Capital LINK a sales pitch for a quack panacea for London's ills. This is the description of how Old Oak will be transformed:

“... the Government has announced proposals for a new High Speed 2 (HS2) and Crossrail station at Old Oak by 2026, potentially making it one of the best connected railway stations in the UK. This could give rise to significant potential for economic development, jobs growth and new homes. The Mayor of London also sees this as an opportunity  to regenerate the wider area.

Based around the new HS2 and Crossrail station at Old Oak, the Mayor, Transport for London (TfL), plus the London Boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Brent and Ealing, have been considering the potential for regenerating the area and are seeking views on a 30-year Vision for Old Oak. This could transform the area with up to 90,000 jobs and up to 19,000 new homes, schools, open spaces, shops and leisure facilities.” LINK

As this last quote shows, the advocates of this plan can't even offer up a coherent concrete argument. It's all maybes and made-up figures and Machiavellian manipulations.

Please, please, please - complete the consultation and show your opposition to the creeping centralisation of power which is placing the wishes of the financiers and developers over the needs of local residents.


Trevor said...

I Have Become skeptical Whenever Politicians Start Taking About " Regeneration" and for good reason because The Council Estate Known As Chalkhill That was Replaced by the Estate Now run by Metropolitan Housing Trust Was Meant to be a So Called " Regeneration"
and now that it is here I can honestly say That it is nothing of the sort.
instead it is " chalk Hill estate on a smaller scale.
the flaws that made the former estate the haven of torment it was are all here.
the inadequate sound insulation material That makes it impossible to enjoy peace and quiet and causes frustration to build up is here again.
the quality of the building is laughable...already damp patches are starting to appear...and cracks in the ceiling are starting to appear Too.
it's no way good enough.
it's basically typical cheap so called " affordable housing" the kind that Mr Butt said are being built by the council With such pride.
well I'd love to Tell him That he has nothing to boast about and that the kind of housing Brent council are having built will be nothing but Havens of Torment.
I know I sound negative but I'm just being realistic because I have lived in this borough since childhood and my experience when it comes to housing isn't good.
I also can't bear to see or hear anything from that so called mayor of London Telling us about his ideas of Regeneration.
you can be certain that when ever politicians talk about changing things it will be a failure.
also I will say again that whenever you have people in positions of authority that misuse it and actually allow people to exploit the public for financial reasons you can be certain that people living in that system(especially the common poor people) will suffer immensely.

Meg Howarth said...

So Boris Johnson wants to create a new planning body in order to bypass local planning authorities in the same way he's using his power of 'call-in' - in defiance of the present government's and his own party's Localism Act. Beyond irony - his call-in powers were created by the Labour Party under the Greater London Authority Act of 1999. He's exercising them ruthlessly in respect of the controversial Royal Mail Mount Pleasant site in Islington and Camden - where only 12% of the proposed housing will be (un)'affordable'.

As for 100 Avenue Road, mentioned in the above blog, here's a fascinating interview with the architect of the building, Issy Benjamin, which can be found in this week's Camden Review

As Benjamin says, his 'building needs little more than a lick of paint to restore it to its original condition'.

One of the mayor's powers set out in the 1999 act is 'promoting social development in Greater London'. Ensuring the provision of enough social housing across the capital - and a corresponding limit to speculative and investment property development - is, therefore, within Boris Johnson's remit. The city's residents need to make sure that power becomes a practical responsibility.

Meg Howarth said...

Brent and Islington amongst 14 local authorities without a single 'affordable' house for sale according to report in yesterday's Telegraph

Meg Howarth said...

Boris Johnson might just have ruled himself out of determining Royal Mail Group's (RMG) Mount Pleasant planning application. This is what the Mayor of London had to say live, at City Hall, on Wednesday in response to his regular #askBoris Twitterthon -

His comments have been reported as demonstrating his pre-determination of the (grotesque) scheme - which is almost certainly nothing more than a scoping, and probably profiteering exercise: once planning consent has been granted, RMG is likely to sell on the site, as Exemplar has done with the huge Goodman's Fields 'development' in E1: 'Having secured the planning consent for the site, it was sold to Berkeley Homes...'

In the video, Johnson openly expresses his liking for the plans, about which, at the same time, he is clearly ignorant, referring falsely to the 'thousands of houses' which will be built as a result. As the blog says, this has 'all the potency of a homoeopathic remedy' - the bombast can't disguise the emptiness of the claim. Interesting to see that he attacks Islington Tribune for misleading its readers about the scheme - failing, of course, to mention that the paper has carried several letters and news stories in which he's been invited by local residents' group, the Mount Pleasant Association, to meet at the site to discuss RMG's wholly unsuitable proposals. Johnson has been narked...

Meg Howarth said...

Hot from Islington Tribune:

‘Denounced’ in the Tribune over controversial luxury homes scheme at Royal Mail site, Mayor Boris goes on the attack'‘denounced’-tribune-over-controversial-luxury-homes-scheme-royal-mail-site-mayor-boris

The 'thousands of homes' he claims would be built deflates to 681, 20% maximum of which will be (un)'affordable'.