I congratulate you on your election. It was lovely to meet your mum a couple of weeks ago and she is incredibly proud of you, I know. It was good campaigning with you and it is good to have you now as a colleague on the Assembly.
We have yet to see the detail of the Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech, but I will carefully consider their potential impact on London and Londoners when they are published. Important Bills on the environment and on policing crimes, sentencing and courts were both carried over. We will engage with the Government and Parliament as they progress in this new session. We will also study carefully the implications of the Planning Bill, the Building Safety Bill and other Bills when published.
The Government’s legislative programme also includes a commitment to refresh its draft Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. I am keen to work with the Government to ensure its strategy reflects the needs of victims and survivors in London.
The Queen’s Speech included a commitment to a Levelling Up White Paper due later this year. I want to work with metro mayors and the Government on this to level up all of our regions for the benefit of the whole national economy. Local economy citizen regions do not exist in isolation but are bound together more than ever by supply chains and social and commercial ties. Last week I went to North Yorkshire where I met newly elected Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin and saw first-hand the state-of-the-art electric buses that are being manufactured there for TfL. Our recovery from this pandemic is too important to let politics get in the way, so I am also reaching out to the Government so we can work constructively together for the sake of London and the whole country.
Sakina Sheikh AM: Thank you, Mr Mayor. Thank you for your warm congratulations and my warm congratulations to you also. I was hoping we could focus a little bit more on some of the aspects around the Planning Bill that was spoken about in the Queen’s Speech. One of the things that I believe are quite worrying and laid out in the White Paper last year are the potential risks of undermining local democracy by removing decision making and making the planning system less accountable to the people who live in that community.
So my question to you is: what will you do to ensure communities and local councils are at the heart of any incoming planning reforms?
You raise a really important question. One of the most important things councillors do, and we do, is in relation to planning and making sure that we can provide a strategic input to decisions made locally, particularly for the bigger schemes as well. Some people are caricaturing Government’s plans as a developers’ charter. I am not saying all developers are bad, nor are all developments bad, but it you take out of the equation local input it can lead to developments that are not good for the local community, do not respect the heritage and do not invest in the long-term. We have to watch out for that going forward. I am also concerned about more and more so-called permitted development. Permitted development is a way of going around all the safeguards we have in place in relation to design, quality, the type of housing, the type of development, community gain, and so forth. A lot of the community gain is around Section 106s, around the Infrastructure Levy and so forth, so we have to watch out for these things. The final thing I would say in answer to your really important question is: we have to be careful we do not make permanent physical change based upon a temporary pandemic. The West End is a good example. I am not in favour of some of those buildings on Oxford Street, for example, to be turned from retail to residential. There is a place for residential in the centre of London, but we have to be a bit careful about central developers or civil servants in Whitehall taking decisions out of local politicians’ hands.
Sakina Sheikh AM: Thank you for that answer. I agree with you, retail to residential could be dangerous for the recovery of our high streets and I look forward to working with you over the next three years to ensure that does not happen. I also wanted to focus on another aspect that I think could be quite worrying in the income Planning Bill and that is around the impact it could have on environment assessments. The Town and County Planning Association has already said that we need to strengthen our environment credentials for the Planning Law and focus it in on cutting emissions, carbon emissions specifically. How can we help shape a Planning System fit for London’s future that puts environmental quality at its heart and allows us to build the green homes our capital needs?
There is good news - our London Plan is world-leading. We require new homes to be net zero carbon, but we require non-domestic developments to be net zero. That makes us world-leading. It also leads to innovation, not just in London but around the country, to meet the requirement that we have in our London Plan. We do have to be careful that the Government’s planning changes do not dilute some of the high standards we have in London.
By the way, the private sector loves it because we give them certainty. They can plan for the innovation, the investment and so forth. We do have to be careful, and I am sure the Government would not do this intentionally, but the Government does inadvertently dilute some of the local planning laws we have in place. The other point to make is: we should be having ambitious emission targets. We have to. That is why we have now gone from a plan to be zero carbon by 2050 to zero carbon by 2030. That provides both opportunities, but challenges as well. I am hoping there are more opportunities than challenges.
Sakina Sheikh AM: Thank you, Mr Mayor. Thank you, Chair.