Standing Up To The Mayor Of London
This winter, Spitalfields has become a battleground and – thanks to the intervention of the Mayor of London – this is Christ Church seen from across the muddy waste where the Fruit & Wool Exchange used to be. Historically, only Henry VIII has been responsible for a greater degree of destruction in the neighbourhood, when he ‘dissolved’ the Priory of St Mary Spital with its large public hospital in the fifteen-thirties and took the fields to create an artillery ground for his soldiers to practise.
If Boris Johnson gets his way by approving the overblown developments in Norton Folgate next week and upon the Bishopsgate Goods Yard in March, he will surpass Henry VIII to become the single most destructive influence upon Spitalfields. Yet, in common with other tyrants, there is a degree of arrogance involved and in Boris’ haste to determine these building schemes before he is out of office in the spring, mistakes have been made which present the opportunity to stop him.
In his tenure, the Mayor has exercised his authority to over-rule local authorities and give his approval to a dozen development schemes in London, which makes the outcome of his forthcoming call-ins for Norton Folgate and Bishopsgate Goods Yard appear predetermined. As if – in the case of Norton Folgate – the designation of the site as a Conservation Area, more than seven hundred letters of objection (two hundred discounted for lack of postal address), a unanimous rejection by the Tower Hamlets Development Committee and five hundred people joining hands around the site, count for nothing in face of the wishes of one man.
Through a Freedom of Information request, the Spitalfields Trust has uncovered procedural irregularities in the handling of the Norton Folgate case which amount to the Mayor erring in law. Consequently, they have launched a Judicial Review challenging the legitimacy of the call-in and rendering next Monday’s hearing a charade in which the Mayor’s decision will be worthless pending the Judicial Review.
The Mayor and the officers of the Greater London Authority are obligated to read planning applications and assess them objectively and neutrally, yet a member of staff at GLA sent an email to British Land’s consultants DP9 at 10:48am on 10th September – the morning the application arrived at City Hall – confirming the Mayor’s intention to call in the application. Although the GLA had already been consulting with developer British Land, they did not take time to examine application in any depth even though they had fourteen days to do so.
Text of email to British Land’s Planning Consultants DP9 from Greater London Authority sent at 10:38am on 10th September the day of receipt of the Norton Folgate Application.
“Hi [name redacted], Yes the report will advise that the application has a significant impact on the implementation of the London Plan and a significant effect on more than one borough and there are therefore sound planning reasons for the Mayor to intervene in this case, as per the powers of the Mayor’s Order 2008. The Mayor will make a final decision on this following the meeting on the 23rd.[name redacted]”
Additionally, the Spitalfields Trust asserts that the Mayor’s decision to call in the application was unlawful on several other grounds. They question his claim the Norton Folgate development would have any significant impact on the London Plan because it is relatively small and they reject his statement that the Norton Folgate development will have an impact on the adjoining boroughs of Hackney and City of London when the site is entirely within Tower Hamlets.
Eventually, someone was going to challenge the Mayor’s belligerent style and it is happening in Spitalfields because no less than the future of our neighbourhood is at stake, and we will not let it go to serve the whim of one capricious individual.
Demolition of the Fruit & Wool Exchange
Future devastation in the Norton Folgate Conservation Area if the Mayor gets his way
Readers are encouraged to attend the Norton Folgate hearing in the chamber at City Hall on Monday 18th January at 2pm. Click here for further information
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