London Plan Meeting

I attended a meeting yesterday (1/2/2018) hosted by the GLA on the London Plan. It was in Bexley Civic Centre in Bexleyheath. The lead speaker was Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for planning, regeneration & skills. Someone later asked who elected him – nobody of course – he was appointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan. There were a number of other Greater London Authority staff present who had worked on the London Plan including Gareth Fairweather from Transport for London (TfL). I spoke to him later and gave him my views on the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

There were about 100 people in attendance, local councillors and the general public who could afford to spend three hours in the daytime to attend. After the initial presentations, which were somewhat boring although planning policies always are, there was plenty of time for comments and questions from the audience. It was clear there was wide opposition to the London Plan with particular concerns about the densification of the local borough (although there were also concerns about affordable housing provision), the restrictions on parking provision, the difficulty of accomodating more people and houses without more infrastructure (in schools, hospitals, etc), and the prejudice against the use of cars. Theresa O’Neill, Leader of Bexley Council, said they would be “sending back a robust response” to the consultation on the London Plan. Let us hope other London boroughs do the same. Another councillor said that Mayor Sadiq Khan does not understand outer London.

I asked a couple of questions:

1) Why does the London Plan (and the speakers at this event) talk about car dependency when using a car is simply a rational choice? It’s a prejudicial term and would not be used to describe people over-reliant on their cycles (as members of the panel might be)? Answer: it’s just a term to describe excessive emphasis on using cars when most trips can be done by walking, cycling and public transport (the Mayor’s target is 80%).

2) The main purpose of streets is surely to assist the movement of goods and people. While the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy seems to want to turn them into places for social interaction and exercise. Please justify. Answer: Different roads have different purposes. Some might be used for movement while others might best be classed as “places”. Comment: George Orwell made it plain how changing the language can turn black into white. So defining a key road junction as a “place” (such as Bank junction in the City) enables closure of the road to traffic.

One speaker made a good comment on the provision of housing in Bexley. Apparently a former Planning Inspector decision suggested that only 450 new homes per annum could be built in Bexley due to limits on infrastructure. But the Mayor’s London Plan is ignoring that and insisting on 12,000 more homes.

Another speaker talked about the lack of hospital provision and other infrastructure. The nearest A&E if you live in Bexley is Woolwich or Dartford. They could be 30 minutes or more away. There was also a problem with water supply.

One particular vociferous Irishman suggested that cycling up hills in the borough would be exceedingly difficult.

Those attending were encouraged to submit responses to the public consultation on the London Plan.

As the speaker from the GLA pointed out, there will be an independent review by a Planning Inspector so it’s possible notice will be taken of comments in the final version of the London Plan which will dictate policies in London for the next few years (unless Mayor Sadiq Khan is ejected when his re-election becomes due). He is surely not going to get much support from the residents of outer London boroughs if the meeting described is anything to go by.

Roger Lawson


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