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City revolts against loss of transport powers

THE CORPORATION of London has told transport minister Glenda Jackson that it will resist plans to hand strategic planning and transport powers to the proposed Greater London Authority.

Chairman of the Corporation's Planning and Transportation Committee Stuart Fraser met Jackson last week to protest against the new powers. He claimed they could cost the City billions of pounds by causing transport confusion and slowing the planning process for new developments.

'The reason for our success as a major financial market is that we have the power to give our customers what they want,' he said. 'The Government now wants to give the Mayor new powers which add bureaucracy and threaten the City's future, but there is no overall strategy in place yet.'

Under the Greater London Authority Bill the Mayor is set to become the highway authority for a network of strategic roads in the city. The Corporation fears that vital construction work will be held up because planning permission will have to be sought for any development within 50m of strategic roads.

It also claims that congestion will get worse in the City because the Corporation will no longer control the 'ring of steel' security cordon, designed to guard against terrorists.

'Our main concern is that we have a red route running from London Bridge to Liverpool Street Station,' said Fraser. 'If, as proposed, that was designated a strategic route it would cut a substantial swathe of difficult planning land right through the centre of the City.'

The City, which generates £20bn a year towards the national economy, is also concerned that planning permission for any building over 50m tall or with a floor space over 20,000m2 would have to be referred to the Mayor.

But chair of the London Planning Advisory Committee, councillor Nicky Gavron, dismissed Fraser's claims as 'unnecessary worrying.'

'All planning decisions taken by the Mayor will be made according to a spatial development strategy which will have been widely consulted on,' she said. 'I cannot imagine a Mayor who is anti-development in the City, but it will have to be a Mayor who is also pro-sustainable development.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said that ministers were now aware of the concerns.

'The route of the strategic roads and the planning powers around them are still subject to consultation,' she said.

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