The big Mayoral election issue being missed – Zac Goldsmith would create streets not tower blocks

zacgoldtwoVarious people have said they find it hard to distinguish between the policies of Said Khan and Zac Goldsmith and that therefor the Mayoral election is more about which individual has the best character and judgment. Well I was on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Friday and I was able to mention very briefly what is an important distinction that has been generally overlooked.

Zac Goldsmith would not only seek to get new homes built bit for them to be beautiful. This is actually crucial to getting the numbers we need built because this is the way to make it popular – whether in redeveloping estates or building on derelict (often state owned) land. We turn Nimbys into Bimbys – Beauty In My Back Yard.

streetIn recent decades new has meant ugly. For example more tower blocks and slab blocks have been inflicted on the capital. But this is not inevitable. Create Streets has argued higher density can be achieved with attractive traditional normal housing and restoring the old street patterns.

Zac’s Manifesto said:

“As the organisation Create Streets has argued, the complex planning system in London has created ugly blocks designed by committee rather than the human-scale streets for which there is greater popular demand. New Victorian terraced houses and red-brick Edwardian apartment blocks are difficult to build under modern planning law – even though these are not only popular but extremely high density, providing up to 75 per cent more homes than the poorly-spaced concrete tower blocks which dominate so much of London.

“For example, the London Plan requirement that every single home has 5m2 of private outdoor space has led to tiny flats having tiny balconies – when instead a developer could have made that flat bigger and put a garden square in the centre of the development instead. Rules regarding ‘over-looking’ – how close a window is to a street or another building – are broken by existing terraced homes to no complaint from city dwellers but are seen as cast iron requirements for new build boxes. The collective impact of many of these small and well-intentioned rules is that London is seeing less of the homes Londoners actually want to live in.

“So, as Mayor, I will challenge the raft of planning rules which prevent us building what we want and what we need. I will run a competition for a set of ‘New Homes for London’, consulting widely with Londoners to determine which housing styles are most popular. I will then work with Government and local councils to remove unnecessary restrictions on these types of homes. In particular, I will ask London’s top architects to help create a modern Edwardian red-brick block – an extremely popular type of mid-rise home which could be re-engineered for the modern age.”

Most Londoners may not realise it but how they vote on May 5th will make a big difference to what London will look like in the decades to come.

Zac to roll out Boris Bikes across Greater London

backzacConservative candidate for Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith, today (29th March) pledged to bring Boris Bikes to the Outer Boroughs and introduce easy Oyster card payments for bike hire.

As part of his Action Plan for Greater London, Zac will:

1.   Bring Oyster cards to Boris Bikes Zac will guarantee that Boris Bikes can be hired quickly and easily with Oyster Cards and Contactless payments from 2017, when Serco’s current contract ends.

Image ©Licensed to i-Images Picture Agency. 29/03/2016. London, United Kingdom. Zac Goldsmith Campaigning. Conservative Party Mayoral Candidate Zac Goldsmith visits Brompton bikes factory while campaigning. Picture by Andrew Parsons / i-Images

Image ©Licensed to i-Images Picture Agency. 29/03/2016. London, United Kingdom. Zac Goldsmith Campaigning. Conservative Party Mayoral Candidate Zac Goldsmith visits Brompton bikes factory while campaigning. Picture by Andrew Parsons / i-Images

2.    Back a Metropolitan Boris Bike Scheme to bring cycling to the outer boroughs Zac will consult on creating new regional Metropolitan Boris Bike schemes around the capital, helping Londoners cycle between neighbouring town centres such as Richmond, Kingston and Barnes; or Stratford to Walthamstow. Zac will also look to expand the outer reaches of the Central Cycle hire scheme, including to Greenwich.

3.    Immediately roll out the Brompton Bikes hire scheme to four Outer London Boroughs to help London’s commuters get out of their cars and onto their bikes in the most cost-effective way possible

4.    Improve cycle safety across the capital – Zac will take forward TfL’s programme to overhaul London’s 33 most dangerous junctions, investigate the next set of priority road improvements and support boroughs that choose to limit speeds on their roads. He will also take lorries off London’s roads through the use of freight consolidation centres and pursing a river first policy. And he will take action to ensure that HGVs are not a danger to cyclists.

5.    Protect Transport for London’s investment budget in order to guarantee new Quietways and Cycle Superhighways for Londoners.

Zac said:

“Boris has put huge emphasis on cycling. As part of my Action Plan for Greater London I will build on that legacy, bringing Boris bikes to the outer boroughs, introducing easy oystercard payments to double the number of cyclists across Greater London, and continuing investment in making cycling safer and easier. I will make London the cleanest and greenest city on earth, and this is part of that commitment.”

“It’s clear we cannot afford the risk of a four year Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn experiment and the £1.9bn black hole in his spending plans that would make protecting cycling investment impossible.”

Commenting Harry Scrope, Managing Director of Brompton Bike Hire, said:

“Brompton Bike Hire provides the popular folding bike at daily hire rates lower than any Oyster Card journey. Brompton support all initiatives that provide Londoners a greater opportunity to travel efficiently and cheaply whilst reducing congestion and improving air quality.”

Zac backs flyunder plan for the A4

zacgoldtwoZac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, has written to me to give his backing replacing the Hammersmith Flyover and a stretch of the A4 with a “flyunder”.

He says:

“I strongly support the idea of taking the A4 underground, allowing us to knit together all of Hammersmith into one beautiful riverside town. The project also has huge potential for reducing air and noise pollution. With up to 10,000 lives cut short a year due to London’s poor air quality, I am committed to taking action to address this. Tackling the gridlock and congestion at sites such as the Hammersmith flyover is essential to ensuring both motorists and the environment benefit and I await the outcome of the consultation process with great interest.

“However, the scheme is not currently funded in Transport for London’s business plan – which means the next Mayor will need to work with Government, business and the local community to find innovative ways to finance the scheme. I am determined to do that.”

When Zac makes a pledge he means it. So this is excellent news. Now all we need to do is to get him elected….

Zac Goldsmith’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in full

zacgoldtwo“I want to begin by saying something to the members of our party, who have put their trust in me for next year’s crucial Mayoral election.

And to all my friends in local government, who have given me so much support.

Thank you.

You may remember that the constituency of Twickenham, was thought to be impregnable

Invincible Cable they called him: a seat the Tories could not possibly win.

Well…no-one told Tania Mathias that!

Tania, thank you for giving me such an inspiring example to follow.

I have always believed that the most important politics is local politics.

And our Party’s record in local Government is a proud one.

– We keep taxes down

– we keep neighbourhoods green…

– we keep people safe.

And that’s why we need a Conservative in the biggest local Government job of all.

Labour’s search for a Mayoral candidate was vicious and divisive.

By contrast, our own search was civilised and constructive.

And I look forward to working with Andrew Boff, Syed Kamall and Stephen Greenhalgh, all of them distinguished servants of our Capital city.

When my constituents gave me the thumbs up to put myself forward as a candidates, I knew the scale of the task.

I will fight with everything I have to win this campaign.

Boris Johnson defied political gravity by beating Ken Livingstone, twice.

And he also managed to defy economic gravity, by giving London the confidence, to beat the recession, to deliver record investment, and a record number of jobs.

And London’s success has been good news for all of us.

When the capital does well – the whole country does well.

But London’s population will increase by 1.5m in the next fifteen years.

There will be immense pressure, on our housing, our living environment, our schools, and of course our transport system.

The Chancellor recently dropped a hint about Crossrail 2 going ahead.

He’s not a man who says things by mistake, so – being an optimist – I’m determined to convert that into a green light!

It’s clearly essential.

But it’s only part of the story.

We are going to need record investment in our transport network, just to keep London moving.

We need finance, and we need reform.

George Osborne has started a revolution, by handing great powers back from the Centre.

And we will see better decision making, more accountability and stronger governance.

And London needs that. Which is why yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor was so welcome.

New York retains half the taxes it raises.

London holds on to just seven per cent.

It’s time for London to keep more of its own revenue.

These things: greater devolution, lower taxes, better infrastructure: can only be delivered if there is mutual trust and respect between local and national government.

And that will only happen, if we have a Conservative Mayor, working with a Conservative Government.

Some of you will have noticed that I have an interest in the environment.

Well we are blessed to have a Capital whose Parks, Commons and gardens mark it out among the world’s most beautiful cities.

But the sheer pace of change means that we must do more than merely protect our existing environment.

We must enhance it.

We need to guarantee, that every child and every family has access to a somewhere to play…to grow…to cherish.

London is the Greatest city on Earth.

I want it to be the greenest.

We are going to have to get to grips with one of the great menaces of urban life.

Air pollution

We can save thousands of lives every year, in part thanks to the creativity of the market.

You can already drive from this hall to London’s City Hall for £5 in an all-electric British-made Nissan Leaf!

We need to accelerate that transition.

But by far the biggest challenge London faces is housing.

I remember in 2008 when I was selected to contest Richmond Park and N Kingston candidates were asked: who will fight off the developers?

Just a few months ago, the very same people asked candidates in the General Election hustings, how the hell are our kids going to get homes to live in?

We have seen a giant shift.

Rents in the capital are already double the national average.

The cost of a home for first time buyers is also double the national average.

And if the very people who make it what it is can no longer afford to live here; if young people can’t start a family because they can’t afford to move; then opportunities for families and businesses will simply dry up.

The answer is not easy.

But it is simple.

We need to build.

Contrary to what some believe, there is no shortage of land.

And specifically, there is no shortage of brownfield land.

We can build the homes London needs, without destroying the green spaces we love.

The Mayor’s new Land Commission, will identify all publicly owned brownfield land in our Capital.

We already know that put together, Transport for London land alone, would be bigger than the borough of Camden.

And there’s no shortage of finance.

Everyone wants to invest in London.

Our capital city is seen as a safe bet for investors.

But where homes are bought purely as investments, and are left empty, that causes huge resentment.

So we can do one of two things.

We can close the doors to outside investors, which is what the Labour Party wants to do.

Or we can capture that finance and use it to build the homes we need on publicly owned land.

As Mayor, I will set up a fund designed specifically to attract big institutional investors.

And I will use it to build a new generation of homes.

Affordable homes for young people, who neither qualify for housing lists nor are able to buy, but who have to spend most of their income on rent.

This is a cause worth fighting for.

But there is one important caveat.

Development will fail and deserve to fail, if we disrespect and trample on existing communities.

Many Londoners are instinctively suspicious of new development.

And I don’t blame them.

Too often they have no say, no control, over what is built in their backyard.

When a new development is proposed for their community, it is often ugly, out-of-proportion, out-of-keeping – and it is simply dumped on them, with no thought as to the effect it will have on their area.

There’s no case for ignoring local opinion.

Yes we need to build more, but we also need to build well.

If we get it right, if we work with communities and give them a real say, then the opportunities are endless.

Consider the 3,500 1950s and 60s estates, many of them poorly designed, many of them coming to the end of their lives.

With the consent of the local community – and with guarantees that they won’t be fragmented

– We have a chance to rebuild them, and provide more homes, better communities, and more beautiful streetscapes.

We know that high density doesn’t have to mean high rise, alienating blocks, magnets for social problems.

We can have attractive street based developments that people actually want to live in.

Which is why if I am elected Mayor, I will ensure that local communities can vote, to require the Mayor to call in significant developments.

I believe passionately in giving communities a voice, and making that voice decisive..

I want to make direct democracy, a London Reality.

And this will be a first step.

This is the country that gave democracy to the world.

And It’s time to renew that democracy, to bring it closer to the people, to make those with power more accountable, to give every community more control over decisions that affect their lives..

Next May will decide London’s future.

Do we want a capital city, run by a party that supports higher taxes and bigger government?

A party that has already committed itself to supporting each and every strike, no matter the motive or cause?

A party in the grip of unbending ideologues…?

A party that can only divide?

Ours is a better, more hopeful vision.

That is why I have put myself forward for this election.

We can build on Boris’s legacy…

… and fight for a safer…

… greener…

…. happier

…more prosperous, united city.

A city that works for all Londoners.

I know it will be the mother and father of all political battles.

But with your help, and your hard work…

We will win for London.”