BY SEAN DELANEY
Plans for 14,000 new social homes to be built in London were announced by Mayor Sadiq Khan at a People’s Question Time event – yet none of the homes will actually be built in the borough in which he made the announcement.
The mayor, pictured, conceded that none of the new homes were to be built in Bexley, where the announcement was made, after the borough had voiced concerns over mass building on the green belt.
The London Mayor said he had been working with councils across 27 London boroughs to scrap the “dodgy definition” of affordable homes and build “genuinely affordable new homes”.
People’s Question Time has been going for 19 years and allows the public to directly raise questions with the Mayor and London Assembly on issues such as transport, housing, safety and air quality.
This was the first time the event had taken place in Bexley and was chaired by Gareth Bacon, London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley and leader of the GLA Conservatives.
Concerns were raised by audience members regarding current planning rules in the Mayor’s London Plan, which they say permits developments in back gardens without council permission.
Attention was drawn in particular to the development next to Sidcup station, consisting of 27 new flats – none of which contain social or affordable homes. The Mayor said: “Nobody is going to take your back garden away. In the new draft plan we have new protections for the Green Belt and other green spaces.
“If the housing minister wants us to build 100,000 new homes and we’re not going to be building them on the Green Belt, the obvious question is where are they going to go?
“And if some councils are saying ‘not in my backyard’, literally, where are they going to go?”
The mayor and the panel of London Assembly members also took questions from the audience on transport concerns in Bexley.
Sadiq Khan opened his address by branding the Southeastern franchise a ‘disgrace’ and called for its powers to be handed over to Transport for London (TfL).
Khan said: “There are many private train operating companies making obscene amounts of profits with trains being cancelled, trains being delayed, and since I have become Mayor their fairs have gone up by more than 8.8 per cent.
“Give us those community lines and let us run those. You’d have fewer cancellations, fewer delays, plus you’d benefit from TfL’s fair freeze. The only person stopping us from doing that is a man called Christopher Grayling.”
The mayor hinted at possible extensions to existing services such as the DLR, while also outlining plans to increase the number of bus services in outer London boroughs such as Bexley.
The mayor said: “Those in outer London rely on a good bus service, for two main reasons, there is no underground but also because Southeastern are so poor.
“Look at King’s Way, Park Lane and look at Oxford Street where there are queues of buses back to back where they are not needed.”
The mayor also raised concerns over cuts to police numbers.
The mayor said: “The number of police officers we have in London is now less than in 2003.
“The two police stations that have been closed down in Bexley were closed down before I was made mayor. They were closed down by a man named Boris Johnson.
“You can’t disaggregate the cuts from central government, and what we’ve seen with relation to crime across the country. We’ve seen youth clubs and after school clubs close down and a decline in police numbers.”
The chairman also directed questions to the panel on air quality and state of the environment.
Caroline Russell, leader of the City Hall Greens, praised the mayor for passing a motion to declare a climate emergency but raised concerns over the accessibility of greener forms of transport in Bexley.
She said: “A quarter of households in Bexley have no access to a car or van. So those residents have to be able to access a bus to get around and to work.
If we are going to clean up our air we have to make sure that people have options to use public transport rather than being forced into using a car.”
Andrew Boff, vice-chairman of the planning committee, also took aim at the Mayor’s London Plan and its approach to Green Belt land.
He said: “The Mayor’s London Plan is little short of a declaration of war on the suburbs. He doesn’t like that it is green and he doesn’t like how it votes.
“He is removing the protections from back gardens and ensuring that those developments will always be one and two-bedroom flats.”
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