Olympic park legacy powers given green light by London Assembly

Olympic site, Pic: EG Focus

A new body that will control the future of the Olympic Legacy site – incuding areas in Hackney and Tower Hamlets – is one step closer to creation after the London Assembly voted unanimously in favour of its proposal.

The Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC), which will require an act of Parliament to be established, will be the authority responsible for an area earmarked for development that is described by Mayor Boris Johnson as ‘London’s single most important regeneration project for the next 25 years’.

The area covers land in the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest including the Olympic Park, currently the responsibility of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).

Direct responsibility for the MDC will be vested in the Mayor of London.

London Assembly deputy chair Dee Doocey said:

“The creation of a Mayoral Development Corporation sets a clear structure to deliver… regeneration and places responsibility for it firmly in the hands of the Mayor.”

Significantly the MDC will have much greater powers than those currently held by the OPLC. It will be the legal planning authority for the area, giving it the right to decide on any future developments and regeneration schemes.

However unlike its predecessor, the MDC’s powers would extend over residential areas, such as Hackney Wick in Hackney and Bromley-by-Bow North in Tower Hamlets.

During the London Assembly meeting concerns were raised about the body’s accountability to local residents.

Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson called for assurances that planning processes are respected in the event of council planning powers being transferred to such a body.

He said of the proposals: “The Mayor must ensure that local residents and community groups can make representations to planning committee meetings, otherwise it could turn out to be less open than a normal council committee.

“[He] should also take the opportunity to involve the local community in ongoing dialogue about the wider plans, going beyond the usual consultation process to benefit from their energy and ideas at an early stage.”

Once legislation is passed, the body will come into formal existence on 1st April this year and planning powers will come into effect from August. A board headed by the mayor will be established, with a representative from each of the boroughs as will a planning committee. While it is not yet clear who will sit on the board, sources indicate members could be appointed by the Mayor of London.

A spokesman for Hackney Council said:

“The MDC must work very closely with Hackney and the other host boroughs when it is formed.  We are very keen to encourage the MDC to fully engage local people and businesses in developing its regeneration plans.”

Any planning decision made by the board will be subject to all relevant planning legislation.

Under the terms of the Localism Act 2011, the Mayor of London has the power to designate any area of land in Greater London as a mayoral development area.

In the past, the actions of such planning quangos that span several boroughs have caused controversy.

In December last year EastLondonLines reported how the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC), a planning authority that covers a large region of east London including Tower Hamlets, gave the green the light to a 12-storey tower on Fish Island.

Local residents opposed to the development slammed what they called a “travesty” and complained of being “gagged” in the planning process.

Even Tower Hamlets council, also opposed, was overruled by the ultimate planning power of the corporation. There was anger that politicians from other boroughs were effectively making decisions for boroughs they did not represent.

But fears of a lack of accountability have been downplayed by the Mayor’s office. They insisted the Mayor, as head of the MDC board, will be directly accountable to all Londoners.

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