‘An Act to make further provision with respect to the Greater London Authority; to amend the Greater London Authority Act 1999; to make further provision with respect to the functional bodies, within the meaning of that Act, and the Museum of London; and for connected purposes.’
The Greater London Authority Act (Act) received Royal Assent on 23 October 2007. It contains a broad package of enhanced powers for the Mayor and the London Assembly, including more strategic powers in key areas such as planning, climate change, housing and culture. It is the provisions giving the
Mayor additional planning powers which have generated the most comment. The Mayor’s planning role will be strengthened by him being able to take a more strategic approach to planning and being able to determine planning applications of potential strategic importance in London.
Under the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2000, if an application of ‘potential strategic importance’ (PSI) as defined in the Order is received; the borough must take certain action including sending the Mayor a copy of the application. The Mayor can then direct the borough to refuse the application if he considers it to be contrary to the London Plan or prejudicial to its implementation or contrary to good strategic planning in Greater London.
In addition to being able to direct refusal, the Mayor will, from April 2008, be able to direct that he is the local planning authority for a PSI application and therefore determine it himself. The Mayor will also be the local planning authority and the hazardous substances authority in relation to any ‘connected’ applications such as for listed building consent, conservation area consent and hazardous substances consent. He will also be the determining authority in relation to any applications to vary or discharge conditions on these connected consents.
The Act provides that where the original PSI application is an outline permission (or a connected listed building consent) granted by him, the Mayor may direct that the subsequent approval of reserved matters (or discharge of conditions on the listed building consent) be dealt with by the borough to whom the application was made.
The Act also states that before determining a PSI application himself, the Mayor must give the applicant and the relevant borough an opportunity to make oral representation (called ‘a Representation Hearing’ in the Act) and he must prepare and publish a document setting out the procedure for this process.
It should also be noted that the Mayor will negotiate any planning obligation relating to a PSI application which the Mayor is determining himself although he must consult the borough before agreeing its terms. Any planning obligation entered into in relation to a PSI application will be enforceable by the Mayor and by the borough.
Currently PSI applications are defined in the 2000 Order. However, the Government published an amended draft Order, setting out the changes to the definition of PSI applications, to inform Parliament’s consideration of the GLA 2007 Bill and will consult on an amended order later this year.
It should be noted that the Secretary of State retains her call-in powers in respect of PSI applications as with other applications and the applicant’s appeal rights against a refusal of planning permission remain unchanged.
In addition to these increased planning powers, the Act places a duty on the Mayor to prepare and publish a ‘London housing strategy’ which is to include the Mayor’s assessment of housing conditions in Greater London and housing needs of Greater London amongst other matters. The Housing Corporation must then have ‘regard’ to the housing strategy when exercising functions under ss18 and 27A of the Housing Act 1996 (social housing grants and grants to bodies other than registered social landlords respectively). London borough housing strategies and any other statement of a London borough’s policies or proposals relating to housing are to be in general conformity with the London housing strategy; and there should not be an inconsistency or omission in a local housing strategy that would cause significant harm to the implementation of the Mayor’s London housing strategy. The Mayor published the draft Mayor’s Housing Strategy on 18 September 2007 and the GLA website states that, following Royal Assent of the GLA Act 2007, the draft Strategy’ will undergo a period of formal consultation, first with the London Assembly and then with the public, before being adopted as London’s first statutory housing strategy.’
The Mayor is also given power to direct amendments to be made to a borough’s Local Development Scheme (LDS). Although the Secretary of State retains the power to override the Mayor by directing a borough to disregard the direction issued by the Mayor or modify any direction issued by the Mayor. This power to direct changes to a borough’s LDS means the Mayor will be able to influence what Local Development Documents are produced.