With the new Prime Minister now finding his feet, we explore what we know about his past involvement in planning matters and what this might now mean for planning at the national level.
For Boris, his first weeks as Prime Minister have been a rollercoaster from his prorogation of Parliament being unanimously considered unlawful in what has been reported to be a relatively straightforward decision for the eleven justices refusing to sign a letter to the EU asking for a delay to the Brexit Process. This is the most recent setback for the Government.
The Prime Minister has announced, through his Chancellor and former Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Sajid Javid MP that there is going to be a White Paper on further devolution in England, an infrastructure revolution and a national bus strategy which would see £220million spent on a new ‘superbus’ network (amongst other things). This is a clear sign of Boris Johnson’s ambitions for the country, outside of Brexit.
Boris has always been seen to members within the Conservative Party as someone who supports devolution and hates the idea of the nanny-state. This is very much an idea that will undoubtedly be reflected in the devolution White Paper. It is likely that regions will be allowed more planning powers as well as powers to drive investment in infrastructure services. This could result in more regional CIL collecting authorities, similar to the GLA currently, and an increase in the number of areas which will have a Metropolitan Mayor. This should protect local authorities’ ability to keep money raised from local taxes.
He doesn’t like to get too involved in the details and nitty-gritty, something he has confessed to many times particularly during the recent Tory leadership race. This can be seen in the level of planning applications called in by Mr Johnson during his eight-year tenure as Mayor of London. During his time, he called in 19 applications, with four of these being called in during his final three months as Mayor of London. When you compare this to Sadiq Khan, he has held twelve public hearings with six more in the works during his three years as Mayor. This indicates that the Prime Minister favours Local Planning Authorities making decisions for themselves.
One of Johnson’s claims is that he delivered more affordable housing than the previous Mayor Ken Livingston and built more than 100,000 affordable homes in London over eight years. This is true, but this was done with the help of changing the terminology of affordable housing to include affordable rent in 2011, something much critiqued by the current Mayor.
His time as Mayor of London can never be mentioned without reference to the ill-fated Garden Bridge, the £53million project which Boris supported so strongly and was called to give evidence on at the London Assembly in December 2017. Whilst it did not materialise, his support for it was admirable.
During the leadership campaign, he highlighted priorities of improving design quality and promoted the creation of new settlements outside of London. He seemed to be a very pro-development Mayor, and we hope will prove to be a pro-development Prime Minister.