Boris says sorry over city’s homes row

BORIS Johnson has apologised to Tory colleagues in Yorkshire after he became unwittingly embroiled in a political row over controversial plans to build thousands of homes in one of the North of England’s most historic cities.

Conservative councillors in York have claimed the Mayor of London was hoodwinked into giving his support to a 15-year vision for development that includes plans for 22,000 homes, with swathes of green belt land earmarked for construction.

Mr Johnson had given his support to the house-building programme under a draft Local Plan after receiving a letter from the Labour-run York Council’s leader, James Alexander, calling on him to put aside political differences to recognise the need for affordable homes.

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Councillor Alexander released Mr Johnson’s response in support of the house-building strategy to the media in August, claiming local Tories opposed to the draft Local Plan would rather be a “party of privilege” than promoting a “property owned democracy”.

But Mr Johnson has now written to the council’s Tory group leader, Coun Ian Gillies, to clarify his position. A hand-written note states: “I am so sorry that my letter has been used to cause political mischief. I speak only for London and I am sure Conservatives would do a much better job in York.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed in August that Coun Alexander had been accused by Tories in York of writing “fan mail” to Mr Johnson. Coun Gillies claimed yesterday that his Labour rival had been “naive” to think he could use Mr Johnson’s original letter for political gain.

Coun Gillies added: “Why he thought he could get away with such a stunt is mystifying. We can only guess that the heady thrill of being leader of the council, with its opportunities to meet the ‘great and the good’, has gone to his head.”

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Coun Alexander claimed he had been heartened by Mr Johnson’s initial letter, but added: “It is disappointing but to be expected that the Mayor has now written to local Conservatives going back on what he had written to me to appease his party colleagues who are against home building in York.”

Boris is right: Page 13.