London Mayor Boris Johnson accused of having already made his mind up over Mount Pleasant scheme

Friday, 4th July 2014

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson should be stripped of his power to decide the controversial Mount Pleasant development because he has already spoken glowingly about his support for the scheme before any public hearing, campaigners have said.

The Mount Pleasant Forum has written to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, following remarks Mr Johnson made at a public debate last week – in which he also criticised the New Journal’s sister paper, the Islington Tribune, for its coverage of the development.

The Mayor said: “Every week I get through the letterbox the Islington Tribune, denouncing me for trying to get some scheme going at Mount Pleasant, which will deliver thousands of homes for Londoners. They don’t like it because they don’t like the design, they think it’s too dense, and what I’m saying – I think it’s a beautiful design actually, I think it will be a wonderful place to live.”

WATCH: Boris Johnson attacks the Islington Tribune in LBC debate

He was speaking in a “State Of London” debate organised by LBC radio station.

Mr Johnson was accused of being disingenuous, as he implied the homes would be affordable. In fact the development at the Royal Mail sorting offices, which border Clerkenwell and King’s Cross, will deliver 681 homes. Just 12 per cent of these will be affordable, one of the reasons for opposition to the current plans. The rest will be luxury homes. It is feared most of these will be marketed abroad, as with other luxury flats being built in the area.

Rather than go through the normal planning channels and allowing Camden and Islington councils to reach a verdict on planning permission, the Mayor has ruled he will have the final say.

In their letter to Mr Pickles, the Mount Pleasant Forum wrote: “It is our case that Mr Johnson’s intemperate comments, in a public debate in front of an audience of thousands and live on air to many times that figure, have fatally compromised his quasi-judicial position in this matter. 

“He has revealed that he thinks it is ‘a beautiful design actually, I think it will be a wonderful place to live’.”  

“He also appears to believe the application will deliver ‘thousands of homes for Londoners’, whereas the real figure is 681.

“We call on you to demand that Mr Johnson recuse himself from any further involvement in the Mount Pleasant application. The developers will then have the option of appealing the refusals of Islington and Camden to your inspectorate and ultimately yourself.”

WATCH: The CNJ challenges Boris Johnson during his secret visit to the site

The Mayor has controversially “called-in” the proposal, the process of taking the decision out of the hands of Camden and Islington councils. He did this after more than a year of discussions about the scheme – and just after Royal Mail had been privatised – claiming the councils were dragging their feet.

Both councils have held planning meetings open to the public, while the Mayor is yet to hold one. 

The Mount Pleasant Forum are also concerned about the height and bulk of the development, and are putting forward their own plans.

Councillor Julian Fulbrook said: “Boris Johnson seems not only to have a closed mind about the Mount Pleasant scheme, but he continues to approach this vital project with a wide-open mouth.

“For him to allege that the scheme is beautiful and will deliver thousands of homes for Londoners is laughable. Not only is the total of all these homes well below one thousand, but, critically, the affordable homes element is down to 12 per cent, rather than the 50 per cent required in Camden.

“Boris and his buffoonery about the Mount Pleasant site must surely be reaching new depths of ill-placed comedy.”

The Mayor’s office has previously stated that Mr Johnson’s comments about the scheme do not compromise his ability to make an independent judgment.

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