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GOVERNMENT RESISTS LEGAL DUTY FOR LONDON MAYOR TO CONSULT SERPLAN

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Hansard 27 July: Column 1447 ...
Hansard 27 July: Column 1447

The government resisted amendments from Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers which would have statutorily required the London mayor to consult SERPLAN, the South East regional Planning Conference, on his or her strategic plan, and to involve the boroughs during its drafting.

The continuing committee stage of the Greater London Authority Bill was dominated by the mayor's strategic planning powers and responsibilities - refered to in the Bill as spatial development strategy.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Hamwee argued that the Bill should require the mayor to consult SERPLAN 'or any successor body' to it in the preparation of the spatial development strategy. She said it was obvious that London had a very close and, in some ways, tense relationship with its hinterland. Among issues of concern were waste disposal, employment and, above all, transport.

'It is important that there should be a direct dialogue. It should not be left to the secretary of state to make assumptions about the views of either area and act as a sort of middle man in passing on messages from one to the other as to the nature of their concerns', said Baroness Hamwee.

For the government, Baroness Farrington rejected the amendment, saying: 'We do not believe that it would be appropriate to create a formal requirement in primary legislation to consult SERPLAN because...that is not a statutory body. It is a group of local authorities and one which may in due course be subject to some rearrangement in the light of new developments, such as the setting up of RDAs. If so, we hope and expect that new arrangements would be devised to ensure the proper co-ordination of planning across the broader south east, but it is not yet clear...what those might be'.

The Bill requires the mayor to consult the assembly and its functional bodies - the economic development agency, Transport in London and the police and protection services - on the first draft of the spatial development strategy. Conservative Lord Dixon-Smith proposed that the mayor should also consult the London boroughs and relevant representative bodies at that stage.

He said: 'The Association of London Government is concerned that the boroughs are included only at the second stage of the process and yet the boroughs will be vital to the spatial development strategy. Although in some ways it will form a new dimension for London, it will also comprise their unitary development plans.

'The amendment seeks to involve the boroughs and the function bodies at the first stage. One thus would stand a greater chance of bringing all these plans together in a unified way at the earliest possible moment. This should not impose any delay. The boroughs and other concultees can be subject to exactly the same time limits as the assembly. Therefore no problem should arise in that regard'.

However, Baroness Farrington said the government believed this was unnecessary and could be a recipe for delay.

She added: 'We want the mayor to be able to produce the SDS relatively quickly and not get bogged down in over-bureaucratic consultation procedures that would require him first to undertake a full external consultation on an initial set of proposals and then again on a draft SDS...

'Of course,it seems likely that any sensible mayor will take care to consult the boroughs and other stakeholders from the outset in developing his or her proposals. Securing their co-operation and participation in developing the mayor's ideas is certainly the best way to ensure that they are implemented as rapidly and effectively as possible. But we cannot see any merit in requiring a two-stage formal consultation procedure'.

Neither amendment was pressed to a vote.

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