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The Mayoral Planning Process

All planning applications in London are submitted to the local council. The local council planning officers then review the planning application and assess what type of application it is and who needs to be consulted. The local council is responsible for consulting local residents and affected parties. They are the decision makers on all applications, but applications that meet the Mayor of London Order (2008) criteria must be referred to the Mayor.

If the application doesn’t meet the Mayor of London Order criteria, it becomes the local council’s responsibility to make the decision, and the Mayor is not able to intervene in these applications. For example, householder applications do not meet the Mayor of London criteria and are not referable to the Mayor.

The Mayor of London Order is legislation that sets out what applications must be sent to the Mayor. The applications that are sent to the Mayor are usually bigger in size, for example: applications that contain over 150 residential units and/or over 30 metres in height. Applications that meet the Mayor of London Order are deemed to be of Potential Strategic Importance, and thus require further scrutiny by the Mayor. There are 3 Stages that an application can move through in the Mayor’s involvement for a referrable application.

When an application is referred to the Mayor, the application is assessed. If it is deemed to not present any strategic issues, the Mayor has the power to say that he doesn’t need to further assess the application, leaving the local council to be the sole decision maker on the application. This is referred to as ‘No Strategic Issues (NSI)’.

If the application requires further assessment, it is known as a Stage 1 application. Planning officers at the Greater London Authority (GLA), review the application against the London Plan. The London Plan is the document that sets out the vision for London for the next 20 – 25 years and the ‘strategic’ planning policies that will enable that vision to be delivered.

At Stage 1, the Mayor has 6 weeks to issue his Stage 1 response, which includes comments to the local council to let them know what he thinks about the application. In the Stage 1 response, the Mayor will assess whether or not the application is in line with the London Plan, and a report detailing the recommendations is sent to the local council and the applicant. The Mayor can also say he does need to see an application again at Stage 2 , for example, he may think an application is suitable and if the council decides to grant permission, he would not need to see it again. Equally, he may think that an application is not suitable and ask not to see it again if it is refused by the local council, but if the local council chooses to approve, the application must move on to Stage 2. 

Once the local council and applicant have received the Stage 1 response, it is their responsibility to continue to review the application, and where appropriate negotiate amendments, before resolving what decision it wishes to make.  Because most of the schemes considered through the referral process are controversial, most are taken to the local council planning committee to decide whether to grant or refuse permission. More information on the relevant local council’s planning committee is available on their respective websites.

Once the council has made a decision at their planning committee and sent all relevant documents to the Mayor, including copies of all of the comments made on the application, the application will be validated at Stage 2. The Mayor then has 14 calendar days to make a decision. 

The Mayor can make one of these three decisions:

  • The council can proceed with their decision without any future changes

  • Call-in the application for the Mayor’s own determination

  • Direct refusal

There are some exceptions to these decisions. For example, the Mayor cannot call-in an application that was referred solely on the basis of being on the Green Belt, but he can directly refuse those applications. The Mayor is also not able to call-in applications that fall within a Mayoral Development Corporation area (such as the Olymplic Park or Old Oak Common).

If the application has been called-in by the Mayor, he is now the decision maker for the application, meaning the Mayor will be decide whether to grant or refuse permission. This can be known as a Stage 3 application, public hearing, call-in, or representation hearing. On PlanApps, this application type will be called a Stage 3 application. 

The applicant may decide to make further changes to the application after the Mayor has called it in. If this happens, a public consultation will be held by the Mayor. This includes notifying local residents and anyone else who has previously commented on the application. The comments received will be reviewed together with previous comments made to the original Planning Authority, and summaries will be included within the Officer’s report on the application which is made available to the Mayor for consideration ahead of the public hearing. This will also be available to view on PlanApps 8 days in advance of the hearing.

The Mayor will then hold a public hearing (usually at City Hall) before making a decision. At the hearing, members of the public can register to speak to the Mayor. If people have commented on the application previously, they will be contacted at least 21 days in advance to let them know the hearing is taking place and ask if they wish to speak at the hearing. The Mayor will listen to objectors and supporters of the application to inform the decision on the application, which is usually announced at the end of the hearing.

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