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Has Boris delayed Elephant skyscraper decision till after election?

A final decision on plans for a controversial 41-storey tower at the Elephant & Castle is now unlikely to be reached until after the London mayoral elections on 3 May following the cancellation of a hearing scheduled for Monday 12 March.

Oakmayne's Eileen House scheme
Oakmayne's Eileen House scheme
Has Boris delayed Elephant skyscraper decision till after election?
Last month Ministry of Sound staff wearing Boris Johnson masks descended on a Westminster awards event which the Mayor was due to attend

Last autumn Southwark Council's planning committee voted to reject a planning application by Oakmayne for a 41-storey tower designed by Allies and Morrison to be built on the site of Eileen House on Newington Causeway.

The scheme has been the subject of a sustained campaign by Ministry of Sound which claims that it could be forced to close if a residential block is built in close proximity to its nightclub.

Councillors were concerned about the impact of noise from the club and its customers on residents of the new homes, as well as the absence of any social rented housing in the scheme and a lack of amenity space. Planning committee members also criticised the tower's design.

Weeks later the Mayor of London Boris Johnson told the council he was 'taking over' the planning application and would make the final decision himself. A public hearing was scheduled for Monday 12 March.

City Hall has since announced that the Mayor "will now be conducting a further round of public consultation on the application" and the public hearing has been deferred indefinitely.

A spokesman for the Mayor told the SE1 website that the consultation period would last for 21 days.

As the consultation process does not appear to have started, it would not now be possible for a final hearing to be held until the Greater London Authority has gone into "purdah" for the 3 May elections.

Two of the mayoral contenders – Labour's Ken Livingstone and Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick – have pledged their support for Ministry of Sound's campaign against the tower.

Although communities secretary Eric Pickles has recently softened the rules on 'predetermination' which prevent elected officials from speaking out on a planning application they may be involved in deciding on, it is unclear what would happen if Mr Livingstone or Mr Paddick were to win the election and be faced with making a decision on this case.

The Greater London Authority's newly revised planning code of conduct says: "If the Mayor is to take a decision on a planning matter, he must not do anything from which he could reasonably be regarded as having a closed mind as to the outcome of the decision.

"If it is possible to reasonably regard the Mayor as having a closed mind, the decision should be delegated to an appropriate person."

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