Greater devolution of powers for Mayor will bring environment benefits

The Greater London Authority could be given greater power over strategic issues affecting the capital, including housing, planning and waste.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has launched a consultation paper on the major decentralisation package, which shows Ministers in favour of the change provided the result is improved quality of life in London.

Announcing the changes, David Miliband, Minister for Communities and Local Government said: "The creation of the Greater London Authority has been a real boost for London, and has had a positive impact on Londoners' quality of life."

"The GLA has now led London for five and a half years and we believe that the time is right to consider whether the strategic planning and delivery of services in the capital could be improved by devolving more powers and responsibilities to the Mayor and Assembly."

The review focuses on the powers and functions of the GLA rather than on London governance structures as a whole and would mean devolving powers from central Government to the Mayor.

Ken Livingstone wasted no time setting out his case in favour of greater powers.

"Stronger powers for the Mayoralty would help to drive through improvements in housing, skills, waste and recycling and many other areas of importance to Londoners," he said.

"As the last five years have shown, devolution delivers a strong local flavour to governing London, enabling us to achieve a massively expanded bus service, and radical policies to cut congestion and improve the environment."

"On housing, the suggestion that Londoners get control over the city's affordable housing investment, together with additional powers to speed up the planning system in London, will help deliver the huge potential that we have for new homes and regenerated neighbourhoods, especially in the east of the city where vast tracts of land are available."

Last week the Mayor launched a new set of guidance notes for developers and designers to make sure buildings are designed with climate change in mind. Adapting to climate change: a checklist for development looks at ways to improve design of new buildings so they can cope more effectively with hotter, summer weather, such as reflective surfaces, shading and more green roofs.

In addition, measures such as rainwater harvesting and water efficient appliances will need to be considered as climate change is likely to increase demand for water while reducing supply. Buildings should also be strong enough to withstand movement as clay soils dry out in summer and autumn.

The devolution consultation will also consider strategic waste planning. Mayor Livingstone said: "It is clear that fundamental change is required in the way we deal with waste. It is environmentally irresponsible for London to dump three-quarters of its waste in landfill sites outside its boundaries. The EU is right to expect all its members to meet new recycling targets and, unless London gets its act together, it will cost us up to £2.5 billion in fines over the next fifteen years. For these reasons a new waste authority for London combined with enhanced planning powers are essential to securing London's status as a sustainable city."

The consultation was launched on November 30th and runs for three months until February 22nd 2006. Ministers are expected to make a decision on the review next spring.

David Hopkins



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