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London Assembly calls on Mayor to set criteria for call-in powers

Mayor of London Boris Johnson's "frequent" use of the power to call in planning applications for his determination threatens to undermine local democracy, the London Assembly has said.

The Assembly this week passed a motion calling on the Mayor to develop guidance setting out clear criteria for when the call-in powers can be used.

The motion said that the Assembly was concerned because Johnson has called in five applications in the past year, having only taken over a total of six applications in the preceding five years.

Applications called in by the Mayor in the last year include for developments at the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in Islington and Camden, Conwoys Wharf in Lewisham and Southwark Free School in Southwark.

The Assembly said that some of the applications had been called in despite the planning process proceeding at local authority level. On many decisions, the Mayor had ignored legitimate borough concerns about issues such as inappropriate density and very low targets for affordable housing, it added.

“In his election manifestos in 2008 and 2012 Boris promised an end to City Hall diktats and a more cooperative approach to relations with London boroughs," said Assembly member Darren Johnson in a statement. "The recent acceleration in the number and speed with which the Mayor is taking over planning decisions from boroughs totally undermines those pledges and puts developers and investors before local democracy."

“There is a role for the Mayor to play in the planning process from time-to-time for strategic developments in London but his recent eagerness to stick his oar in before local councils have had a chance to consider projects is undermining local democracy,” Assembly member Stephen Knight added.

The motion was passed by 16 votes to five.

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