Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Last month, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, decided to call in the planning application for the Mount Pleasant site that stretches across the London Boroughs of Islington and Camden. This means that he decided to circumvent both local Councils and, as a result, he alone will now act as the Planning Authority and make the decision alone whether or not to grant the Royal Mail Group (RMG) permission to go ahead with their plans for the site.

I and my colleague, Assembly Member Dismore, who represents the people of Camden, had previously written to the Mayor to ask him not to do so, but he failed to listen to our demands and called in the application nonetheless.

Our letter to the Mayor, which asked him not to call in the application was based on the following:

1) there was a significant and almost universal voice in the local community on both the Camden and Islington sides for him not to act alone and to leave it to the local Councils to resolve;

2) it cannot be right for one man alone, with only limited local accountability, to have the final say on such an important planning application for the area. Local Councillors not only know the locality far better than Boris, but they are much more accountable to their residents and will put local people’s considerations at the forefront of the decision-making process, rather than the Mayor who might be more easily swayed by the shareholders of the developers;

3) by calling in the planning application, he is undermining local democracy and is setting a worrying precedent whereby private developers that are not getting everything their own way will simply write to the Mayor to ask him to circumvent Councils, democratically-elected Councillors and the people that they represent; and

4) the plans for the site as they currently stand only have a pitiful 12% of the housing units listed as being affordable housing. Islington Council wanted the figure nearer a much better 50%, but RMG were having none of it and the Mayor clearly agrees. Boris has already hit Londoners by setting ‘affordable’ housing at 80% of the market value, and now he seems to think that having a mere 12% of housing units classified as affordable is acceptable. We’ll soon see a situation where inner London will see itself being hollowed out to be left as the playground of the rich.

In Mayor’s Question Time, I challenged Boris on this terrible decision to call in the Mount Pleasant planning application, a video of which you can see here.

Not only did he fail to offer any real explanation for why he has called in the application, and certainly gave no sign that he will change his mind, but he criticised me for standing up for the people I am elected to represent.

It leaves me wondering more everyday who the Mayor actually represents, and, to me, it gets clearer by the day that he only stands up for the wealthy majority, has little interest in proper democratic processes and is prepared to put money before people.

Rest assured, I will continue the fight to get him to reconsider this short-sighted and financially-driven decision, and urge all local residents to contribute to mine and Assembly Member Dismore’s public consultation, which can be accessed here.