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No one should be in any doubtcertainly, the Mayor is notthat these are tough tests to meet. They should provide reassurance to boroughs that the vast majority of decisions will remain with them. The geographic test applies only to non-housing and waste applications.
We have looked again at housing and, for important reasons, made further changes to the order, to reduce the threshold for the size of housing developments that the Mayor will see from 500 units to 150. Let me be very clear about why we have made this distinction. My noble friend Lord Harris, the noble Lord, Lord Best, and other noble Lords have spoken about the crucial need for housing in London and the critical challenges faced by London in providing more housingparticularly affordable housingand in managing waste.
Between 2006 and 2016, household numbers in London are expected to increase by nearly 400,000that is 40,000 per year. That is an enormous challenge. The need to raise our performance across London to meet that challenge is precisely our reason for introducing this change. It is not something that can be done on a borough basis; it should not even be a cross-borough issue. It is a key shared task for boroughs, the Mayor and, indeed, central government. As noble Lords have said, this goes very much to the heart of our capacity, as a Government, to deliver affordable homes.
To reply to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the housing targets, set out and negotiated between the boroughs, are partly determined by the London Plan, but each borough has a set of circumstances that, as it works through its response in terms of what it can provide by way of affordable housing, is a realistic navigation between what is needed and what it can aspire to and provide.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, that the figure of 150 homes is not new. It is an extension of the existing 150-unit threshold, which relates only to schemes that do not accord with the development plan; that threshold was previously in Part 3 of the development order. We have already proposed changes to the thresholds on waste.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about family homes. We are conscious that we have not been building enough larger homes; we need more choice and to meet the demands of cohesion, which the noble Lord, Lord Best, discussed. In planning policy statement 3, we make it clear that we now need housing policies that meet the real and complex needs of families as they change and grow. That is reflected in the London Plan, which refers to a balanced mix of homes and different types of housing. The GLA carries out detailed research with boroughs to establish those needs. I will write to the noble Lord about densities because the situation is slightly more complicated.
Some noble Lords argued that housing developments of 150 units are not strategically important because they are too small. I believe that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who argued that the fact that the developments look small does not mean that they are insignificant. Cumulatively, if we assumed an average of 300 units per application, 12,000 new homes could fall within the scope of the provision, and 6,000 of them could be affordable. We are talking about significant numbers. The idea that smaller-scale developments cannot be significant is already established: the Secretary of State has already used her powers to intervene in housing proposals for as few as 15 units because they raise issues of wider importance.
The changes introduce greater clarity. To reiterate, the Mayor will have to meet two tests before he can intervene in housing or waste applications. He will have to show that there is a significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and that there are sound planning reasons for intervening.
There is a further safeguard against unwarranted mayoral interference. The Mayor must also take account, in deciding whether there are sound planning reasons to intervene, the extent to which the borough is meeting any relevant delivery targets that are set out in the plan. That involves, for example, whether the borough is achieving the development plan targets that it has signed up to in relation to affordable homes. Boroughs are doing their part to deliver new housing supply; many do so but some, as has been mentioned today, do not. If a borough is meeting its targets, it has nothing to fear. We have made these changes after a great deal of thought and consideration.
I was asked about the Mayors delegation powers. The Mayor cannot delegate the decisions. It is for him to decide, which again adds to the significance of the arrangement. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, raised three examples. She was quite right: Heathrow would come under the new independent planning permission. The Olympics is covered by the fact that the powers now rest with the Olympic Delivery Authority. She also gave the example of wharves. It is perfectly fine to have a policy about wharves in the London Plan; the Mayor also has many other policies. He must apply all the policies that are relevant to a site in the context of the circumstances of a site. If he has a personal and direct interest in an application rather than a policy, he would not be able to take over a case. No more conditions of propriety apply there.
I turn to the number of applications that may be involved. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, that we looked very hard at the evidence from the GLAs databasethat is the source that we would use to see how many might be brought within the scope of the provisions. On the best evidence that we have, there would be only 40 applications a year. The Mayor will still be the point of reference for only about 330 applications a year. I believe that that is entirely proportionate. We cannot accept the amendment for the strong reasons that I have offered.
I turn to Amendment No. 78B and the thresholds for Westminster, on which I can be brief. When we launched this review of the Mayors planning powers, we were very clear that our starting point was the existing thresholds in the Mayor of London order. These have operated for seven years. The case for other boroughs having other thresholds was not made. The amendment has probably been inspired because of what we achieved for the City. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, we could not accept the fact that individual boroughs should have separate thresholds. That would result in very different levels within each borough.
are already defined in Part 1 of the schedule to the order. The term more substantial development as it is proposed to be used in the amendment does not, in our view, require a definition beyond the common-sense interpretation of those words. It would be clear in the circumstances of a particular case that that was so.
I turn to the two amendments that were spoken to so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. We are very happy with the changes for the thresholds in the City because it is so differentit is uniquein relation to driving the national and regional economies.
The noble Lord asked for a statement in Hansard. In terms of detail, we are amending the thresholds so that the height threshold for buildings in the City, which is set out in category 1C of the draft Mayor of London order, will be raised to 150 metres and the floorspace threshold applicable to the City, which is set out in category 1B, will be raised to 100,000 square metres. Those new higher thresholds do not apply to buildings that are adjacent to the Thames because of the rivers wider contribution to the character and views of the capital. The draft Mayor of London order already sets a specific height threshold of 25 metres for buildings along the Thames; this will remain unchanged. Significantly, this change will apply to both the Mayors existing power to direct refusal of planning applications and the new power to take over applications. For those obvious reasons, we cannot accept the amendment. We have consistently said that, because of the detail involved, the order and not the Bill is the appropriate vehicle. That arrangement has worked well for seven years.
Amendment No. 80 seeks to amend what is now category 3E of the draft order to ensure that, where a development would require referral to the Mayor of applications for development of over 2,500 square metres that departed from the development plan, the development would need to be of a scale that would be contrary to the development plan as a whole or prejudicial to the implementation of the plan as a whole.
could be said to mean that a conflict with an individual development plan policy could require the City to refer an application to the Mayor. I do not believe that that is the case. I listened closely to what he said. The categorys wording is unchanged from the original order and it has operated without difficulty for seven years. Circular 07/99 confirms that it is a matter of planning judgment for the local planning authority to determine what constitutes a departure. We do not think that minor conflicts would result in applications being referred to the Mayor. However, if it would reassure the noble Lord, I am happy to commit today to making this position explicit in the circular guidance that will accompany the new provisions. I hope that he is reassured.
Finally, I turn to government Amendment No. 82, which is a technical amendment to clarify the definition of connected applications in new
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This has been a large group of amendments. I am afraid that I have wearied the House but it was important to put some of that on the record. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.
I remain completely unconvinced as to why the threshold should be reduced from 500 to 150 units. It seems to me that it would not be unusual for many boroughs to handle applications for 150 housing units in not very large sites, particularly under the pressure for housing at present. I simply do not understand why the Mayor should be involved in that when there are already agreements on affordable housing. The original threshold was 500. It is our belief that that is where it should remain. I therefore beg leave to test the opinion of the House.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this will be a shorter debate but no less significant. I hope the government amendments which seek to introduce a
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Let me start with the main amendment, Amendment No. 87, which gives effect to and, indeed, goes further than the commitment I made previously and further demonstrates the importance we attach to ensuring that the way in which the Mayor will make decisions on planning applications will be open and transparent, while respecting the practical circumstances of the Mayor as a single decision-maker.
New Section 2E brings on to the face of the Bill a requirement for the Mayor to give the local planning authority and the applicant an opportunity to make oral representations to him about a development proposal. It further requires the Mayor to prepare and publish a document setting out any other persons he will hear oral representations from, the procedures he will follow for considering oral representations and the arrangements for identifying the factual information that is agreed by the parties. These provisions were previously set out in the draft Mayor of London order. I am sure noble Lords will welcome this change to put them on the face of the Bill because, as I said, we have listened to legitimate concerns.
In keeping with my commitment to the House, new Section 2E also requires the Secretary of State to apply, by order, the requirements of Part 5A of the Local Government Act 1972 relating to public access to local authority committee meetings, relevant documents and the representation hearings the Mayor must hold, subject to such modifications as the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient. Requirements such as ensuring that representation hearings are open to the public and the public have access to agendas and reports are important to ensuring that mayoral decision-making is as open and as transparent as that of borough planning commissions.
We will apply the detailed requirements of Part 5A through the Mayor of London order. For the avoidance of doubt, let me explain that the modifications we have made in the provisions of Part 5A are technical amendments to ensure that the provisions work as intended given the key differences between the way local authorities are constituted and the mayoral model. They certainly do not affect the substance or intentions of the 1972 Act.
Government Amendments Nos. 81, 85 and 86 are technical amendments consequential to Amendment No. 87 and I hope they are uncontroversial. Amendment No. 81 simply makes clear that new Section 2E contains provisions supplementing the provisions in Section 2A. Amendment No. 85 makes clear that the power to make an order in new Section 2E shall be exercised by statutory instrument. Amendment No. 86 requires that a statutory instrument made under Section 2E shall be subject to annulment by a resolution of either House of Parliament. Again our amendments demonstrate that we have listened closely to what we have been told.
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Perhaps I may also speak to Amendments Nos. 87A to 87C, 87CA, 87D and 87E, which would have us go even further. I understand the principle behind the amendments but the logic is flawed. Let me explain why I have to resist them. They seek to amend new Section 2E to require the Mayor to hold a representation hearing to allow the applicant and the relevant London borough to make oral representations to him before he decides whether to exercise his current power to direct a borough to refuse a planning application in addition to the requirement to do so under his new power to determine applications.
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