Economics dinosaurs alive and kicking at the GLA

Friends of the Earth have a number of criticisms of the London Plan

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Strong support for London’s green open spaces – except from developers

An important Part of the London Plan will be debated in public on 15th July. It is called ‘Green infrastructure: the network of open and natural spaces’.  West London Friends of the Earth has submitted a statement to the ‘Examination in Public’ and has studied submissions from other parties.

75 parties responded to the consultation. This includes some 10 London councils, 10 developers or landowners, and 5 authorities. But the majority are community, amenity and specialist groups plus a few individuals.

Nic Ferriday, spokesperson for West London Friends of the Earth, said “London’s green open spaces are an important part of this great city. The public, community groups and councils strongly support the protection and enhancement of open space. Furthermore, they want to see developers make a genuine contribution to open space, not build on it.”

Most of the developers are trying to avoid responsibility for enhancing open space.

Nic commented “The Mayor wants to build huge numbers of housing units in London. With housing selling for up to 3 times the actual cost of building, landowners and developers are set to make gigantic sums of money. From the windfall profits, gifted to them by planning permissions, they should make a major contribution to public amenities. This must include open spaces.”

Far worse, developers seem to want to build over important green sites. The Home Builders Federation says: “ ‘green infrastructure’ needs to be more precisely defined, and should be limited to recognised parks and public gardens.”   

Nic Ferriday commented “This statement means that woods, commons, riversides and any other wonderful open spaces that are not designated as parks or gardens could be built over.  It is this sort of attitude that makes the public regard developers as the enemy.”

It not obvious why developers are even being allowed to appear at the EiP.

Nic said “It is fine for business that operate in London and contribute to its economy to make representations because they have a continuing interest and a stake in London’s future, just like residents.  But it is quite different for developers.  They have no stake in London other than making a quick buck out of planning permissions. Inviting developers to the EiP is like giving arms manufacturers a place at peace negotiations or giving oil companies a seat at climate talks.


Participants in the London Plan attended a ‘Technical Seminar’ in advance of hearings on the London Plan. [notes 1,2] They heard a presentation by the GLA’s (Greater London Authority) Chief Economic Advisor (ie senior staff member), Bridget Rosewall. What they heard appalled many members of the audience.

Nic Ferriday, spokesperson for West London Friends of the Earth said: “What we heard at the seminar was out-of-date, unreformed and discredited ways of thinking about the economy.  Economic growth was discussed as if it was an end in itself, without discussing whether and how it would benefit Londoners. There was no consideration of who might benefit – for example rich bankers or poor people.”

The projections assume steady long-term growth with no constraints except temporary ones like the current recession. 

Nic Ferriday continued “This is head-in-the-sand thinking which ignores all the momentous changes taking place in the world.  Oil dependency and peak oil, fast-rising population and food shortages are disregarded.  And action to address climate change is just seen as a possible impediment to economic growth, while the havoc that climate change could wreak on the economy is ignored.”

Nic concluded “The GLA’s narrow and out-of-date economics is a dangerous basis for planning London’s future.  If London is to have a bright future, the social and environmental challenges that we all know are coming need to faced and built into the London Plan.”

Nic Ferriday, spokesperson for West London Friends of the Earth said: “The size of this increase shocked the audience as well as the fact that there was no sign of levelling off even after 2031. It seems that the population of London could spiral out of control.”

At the seminar, Mr Hollis was asked if the population forecast took account of the jobs or housing that would be available for such a population. The answer was that no assumption had been made about jobs. On housing it had been assumed that more housing would be provided on the basis of previous population forecasts.

Nic Ferriday commented: “In a world city with much migration in and out, population changes will be largely dependent on the housing and infrastructure available. But the GLA has contrived a forecast which uses housing figures that already assume a massive population increase. The population of London is an absolutely crucial in determining how London develops and there needs to be a public debate about the population for London that is desirable or acceptable. But this chicken-and-egg approach to forecasting seeks to pre-determine the population and thus prevent such debate.”

Despite the issue being raised in submissions to the London Plan, the Chair and Inspector for the Examination in Public have refused to make population a subject for debate. 

Nic concluded “Population is absolutely crucial and is the underlying factor that will determine how London develops. But the GLA and the Inspector for the London Plan seem determined to stifle debate and to prevent Londoners having a say what population they want to see for London. It would not be too strong to say that this smacks of a conspiracy.”   



July 14, 2010