Boris Johnson has dismissed Ed Miliband's warning to property developers failing to build on their land to "use it or lose it" as a threat of "Mugabe-style expropriations", despite suggesting such a move last year.
The London Mayor made the comparison to the Zimbabwean dictator in his Daily Telegraph column on Monday, warning the Labour leader: "You won’t get developers risking their cash to build, if they are told they are vulnerable to Mugabe-style expropriations."
Despite ridiculing Miliband's proposals to seize unused land from property developers by comparing them to Robert Mugabe, Johnson proposed such a move last May in an attack on "pernicious land-banking".
The London Mayor even threatened to use compulsory purchase orders to seize control of any unused land. This came as around 177,000 London housing units were estimated to have planning permission but have seen development grind to a halt.
“To constrict supply to push up prices by land-banking is plainly against the economic interests of this city," he told the London Assembly.
“I’m all in favour of using the powers where there are clear cases ofl and-banking, where people could go ahead with developments that would be massively to the benefit of this city.”
Nicky Gavron, Labour's London Assembly planning spokesperson, told the Huffington Post UK that the Mayor was "effectively trashing his own pledge".
She said: “Boris is effectively trashing his own pledge to tackle land banking and help solve London’s housing crisis. The Mayor’s 2020 Vision promises to “introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ planning permission for developers”. At Mayor’s Question Time in May he went further and vowed to use compulsory purchase orders to get projects going.
"But now he’s branding similar proposals “Mugabe-style expropriations”, even though he has made the very point that appropriate use of these tools doesn’t equate to anything of the sort. So what’s changed?
“The call to impose escalating fees on developers who refuse to build, backed up by the threat of compulsory purchase orders for the very worst offenders, is a common sense approach to market failure. Boris not long ago espoused this common sense, but now he apparently finds it politically expedient to attack it. Does this mean he is now comparing himself to Mugabe?”