London Mayor hopeful Sadiq Khan: I don’t believe in building on our green belt
PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:39 26 February 2016
Labour’s London Mayor candidate has ruled out building on Havering’s green belt, despite the capital’s “housing crisis”.
MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan, 45, spoke to the Recorder about everything from transport to air quality, while on the campaign trail in the lead up to the mayoral election.
Mr Khan, the son of a bus driver and seamstress, said there is publicly-owned land “16 times the size of Hyde Park” in London which could be freed up for development.
The comments come after almost 50 green belt sites in Havering were identified by developers that submitted controversial plans to have their protected status removed last year.
The largest of those was at Bush Farm, Corbets Tey Road, Upminster.
“We don’t want to use green belt – there’s enough land available, I just don’t believe in it,” said Mr Khan.
“We need to make sure we’re using all the land we can and there are so many things that haven’t been tried.”
The candidate said it was vital Londoners had “first dibs” on affordable homes, before adding he would redefine what was meant by “genuinely affordable”.
“The mayor has powers around planning to stop buy-to-leave investors,” said the hopeful, who pledged to set up a team dedicated to fast-tracking the building of affordable properties.
“Homes are being sold off to Middle Eastern and Asian investors – we have got to say no.
“I have nothing against foreigners but don’t use London as gold bricks – it’s personal to me, I was raised on a council estate and I want Londoners to have security.”
Mr Khan said it was one of his priorities to ensure developments near Crossrail stations remained affordable.
“We need to make sure the homes that are built are affordable and I’m going to set up an expert team called Homes for Londoners – it will do what it says on the tin.”
Mr Khan has also set his sights on securing money for Crossrail 2, which will run from the north to the south of the capital, if he is voted in on May 5.
The former lawyer, who said London’s transport is “the most expensive in Europe”, hopes to implement a fares freeze for the next four years – paid for by existing Transport for London (TfL) budgets.
He said: “I understand how difficult it is for people in Havering.”
Addressing concerns about disparities in the life expectancy of those from poorer and wealthier parts of the city, the politician said tackling pollution would be a step forward.
“About 10,000 Londoners die a year because of poor air quality and we have got to address these issues,” said Mr Khan, who wants to see hydrogen-powered buses on our streets.
The mayoral hopeful’s business policies include plans to work with local authorities to reward businesses paying employees the London living wage by awarding them public sector contracts.
His priorities with policing include stepping up efforts to employ more officers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and drive down the “unnecessary” use of stop and search.
The optimistic candidate said London, the “greatest city in the world”, was at a “crossroads” at this election.
He said: “Vote for another conservative and things will get worse and worse.
“But this time you can get involved and make a real change.”
Mr Khan said he would ensure a “healthier and safer London” under his watch.
“We will start fixing the housing crisis and support business growth too,” he said.
Not sure who deserves your vote at the London mayoral elections?
We’re doing our bit to help make up your mind by hosting an online hustings next month.
Five candidates have already signed up to the event which will be hosted live as it happens on our website on Monday, March 7 from 6pm to 7pm.
Frontrunners Sadiq Khan MP (Labour) and Zac Goldsmith MP (Conservative) will be joined by Cllr Sian Berry (Green), Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrat) and Sophie Walker (Women’s Equality Party).
George Galloway (Respect) and Petter Whittle (Ukip) are yet to confirm their attendance.
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Busy that night? Don’t worry – all the hotly-contested details from the night will appear in that week’s newspaper.
The London mayoral election will take place on May 5.