Mayor answers to London
Supporting community-led development
Question by Jenny Jones
What are you going to do about it? You have given your verbal support but are you going to give any GLA support? I know Richard Blakeway [Mayoral Adviser for Housing] visited St Clements Hospital so could you not help those communities coming forward with this idea?
Answer by Boris Johnson (1st Term)
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not know whether you were there in the meeting with London Citizens - I cannot remember whether you were there - but we had a great meeting and they put the point across again about the St Clements Hospital site. It will be familiar to many enthusiasts for CLTs. I just do not think I can say much more about it now, Jenny, without fettering any discretion I may have. I think it would be unwise of me to say more about that particular proposal.
Jenny Jones (AM): I do not think you have got any discretion to fetter on this have you? Isnt it more about your supporting groups like this? I know you favour government support for this, but I would have thought this fitted with your politics perfectly.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I agree.
Jenny Jones (AM): Local people are telling you what they want to do for themselves and you could support it.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You and I, Jenny, as greens with a lower case g, we agree on this. We agree passionately on the democratic utility of this type of idea. We agree that it empowers local communities and I want to support it.
In respect of the particular site that we are discussing I just do not think I should be going, in this place, into more detail about the ways in which we propose to do that.
Jenny Jones (AM): Perhaps I can just tell you what Cornwall Council did. It employed a full time project manager who supported 17 community land trusts in 2 years. Would you do a feasibility study about what you could do to help them; about the possibility of having a project officer of that kind who can help local communities who want to do this sort of thing?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We have such a man. He is called Rick Blakeway. He is a fantastic man. Only last week, Jenny, as you know, he met representatives of the proposed CLT and he is discussing it and we are seeing what we can do, but I really do not think, at this stage, I should be saying any more about the developing plans.
Jenny Jones (AM): All right then, not about that plan but more about what you could do here in this building to actually encourage people to do this sort of thing.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. I think what you are inviting me to do is to employ a raft of people in the GLA to be in charge of community land trust promotion and I think that, given we are a strategic body, given the pressures we face on our finances, and given the excellent job that is being done by Rick Blakeway in already negotiating with people who are proposing CLTs and talking to them about it, I think we should stay pretty light on our feet and stimulate and foster and chivvy and encourage, but not employ huge numbers of people here in the GLA to do it.
Jenny Jones (AM): All right. Fine. I did only mention one officer. I do not know what the population of Cornwall is but perhaps it is not as big as London so we might need more than one here. I do not know. Could I then ask Richard Blakeway, through you, to pick this up as a matter of urgency because it is a way out of the recession for people who want home ownership?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We are not in disagreement about this, Jenny. Actually, if I remember, it was Rick [Blakeway] who, two or three years ago, brought the idea of community land trusts to me and expounded it for the first time. He actually explained the whole thing to me. I think he is completely right in his enthusiasm for it. Can I propose, since you are very, very good at inveigling your way into the eighth floor, and you are always welcome there --
Jenny Jones (AM): That is just a nasty rumour I want you to know! Yes. What are you going to suggest?
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I was not aware of any nasty rumour. Since you are very good at getting into the eighth floor and making your views known, if there is a particular proposal you think that we are missing or a particular idea for a CLT that you think we could be doing more to encourage, then talk to Rick [Blakeway] - in addition to the St Clements Hospital idea.
Andrew Boff (AM): Mr Mayor, are you aware of the efforts of Margaret Ford at the Olympic Park Legacy Company [Baroness Ford, Chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company] to see whether or not a community land trust can be installed as part of the legacy of the Olympics, and would you be supportive of that?
Darren Johnson (Chair): I am indeed aware of that, Andrew. Margaret [Ford] actually made that point at the very meeting of London Citizens which we attended. I think it is a very good way forward. As I say, there are huge merits to that model because you build in an incentive to the proprietors of the land to look after it properly and to improve it for the benefit of the people living on it who are, themselves, the proprietors of that land.
Andrew Boff (AM): Would you also agree that a community land trust is not just an off the shelf commodity; it is a new area to embark upon and we would be wrong to rush into them without investigating the details of such community land trusts? Much as the intention of the community land trust is to build houses for families and communities, in some details of the community land trust, there is the danger that actually what you can produce is a very closed community which is not then open to other people to enter into it.
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. I am sure Jenny [Jones] would agree with this; we would want to be encouraging CLTs that were genuinely for the community and had a wide range of family housing and all the rest of it. I have no reason to doubt that, if we get it right, that that would follow. These have been extremely successful I think in America and in Norway.
Andrew Boff (AM): They have slightly different laws there I understand.