Matthew condemns London Mayor for cynical use of call-in power for political gain

Matthew has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government asking that he reviews the Mayor of London's decision to allow the construction of 844 homes on the former Pentavia Retail Park site between the A1 and the M1 in Mill Hill.

In his letter to Robert Jenrick MP, Matthew says that in July 2018 the London Borough of Barnet refused this planning application as being contrary to its development plan. It is also contrary to the London Plan and the adopted Pentavia Retail Park Planning Brief. In fact, it is understood that the Mayor’s planning officers acknowledged in their recommendation to the Mayor that this development was contrary to Barnet’s development plan.

Matthew's letter continues: "I believe it is important that decisions, such as planning applications, should not be overturned by higher tiers of government, such as regional mayors or even central government. This view was reinforced in the Committee of Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Authority Business (Widdicombe Committee) 1985 which stated that one of the strengths of local government is that it remains impartial of central government (including regional mayors). Decisions are made closer to the people they represent than when taken at a higher level. The Prime Minister, when he held the position of Mayor of London, made it clear on numerous occasions that he did not believe it was right for him, as Mayor, to intervene in local decisions.

"That said, I appreciate the Mayor of London has the power of call-in and, as such, I would not normally take issue with the decision he made, even if I disagreed with it. On this occasion, however, I feel strongly that the current Mayor is cynically using his call-in power for political ends.

"The site in question is situated in a triangle of land squeezed between the M1 and A1 with an adjacent mainline railway. Pollution levels are so high that the proposed development includes a large number of sealed windows. A recent report warns that the air pollution that city dwellers are exposed to is as bad for the health as smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. The nature of the properties – Build to Rent – and the enclosed nature of the site due to the road network, means there is a real risk of this development becoming akin to the sink estates of the mid twentieth century which discouraged community cohesion and, in many cases, engendered high levels of crime.

"The original application was amended to include a greater number of affordable homes which brought the total from 724 to 844 units. The Mayor was elected on a promise to deliver a certain number of new homes and he has spectacularly failed to do this. Now it seems he is prepared to accept any housing project which will allow him to say he has delivered on his pledge at next year’s Greater London Authority Elections. This is despite the fact that in this case the development will go against his own London Plan and will not meet his air quality criteria. In overruling the London Borough of Barnet, the Mayor will be complicit in condemning the residents of this development to living conditions that should not be acceptable in the twenty-first century."      

Matthew concludes by saying: "My constituents feel that the democratic process has been blatantly flouted. On their behalf, I ask if you would review this planning application in the light of the damage that will be done to the wider public interest if the development goes ahead and that you consider taking a stand against the Mayor of London to make clear that inappropriate use of his call-in powers will not be tolerated."