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A New Plan For London

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In December 2017, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, published his Draft London Plan. This 500-page document sets out the strategic policies which will guide development in the capital until 2029, aiming to ensure that London remains amongst the world’s leading cities for years to come through sustainable and inclusive growth.

The plan seeks to help re-balance the London economy, minimising the economic performance gap between different towns and boroughs, and, as in previous plans, sets out measures to tackle the capital’s housing crisis which continues to see a significant shortfall in supply relative to the growing London population. It also outlines plans for how outer London boroughs can work more effectively with the wider south-east and how they can be better connected via improved transport links, including the Elizabeth Line and Crossrail Two, all of which aim to provide an increase in jobs and economic activity.

Although the Draft Plan is in the very early stages of consultation and the policies therein may be subject to change before its eventual publication in Autumn 2019, there is little doubt that the implications of the plan for the development of housing and regeneration schemes will begin to impact throughout the coming months. It will have a significant impact on the boroughs within north and north-east London and at Strettons, we believe that it will bring much needed economic and societal benefits to these areas.

 

Widening Housing Targets

London’s population is predicted to reach 10.8 million by 2041 with 70,000 more people living in London each year. To meet this demand, 66,000 new homes will need to be built each year, an increase from the previous target of 42,000.

Not surprisingly therefore, it is the hot topic of housing that takes centre stage of the Draft London Plan and the boroughs of Haringey, Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Enfield and Waltham Forest continue have to demanding housing targets.

This expectation places these boroughs in a strong position for growth as we move into the next decade. However, the strategic housing targets outlined in the new plan, places significantly greater responsibility on the outer boroughs to deliver more homes. In these boroughs increases in housing targets range from 1200 per annum to 2000 homes which will bring challenges to these areas.

The present supply of new homes in the capital is 29,000 per annum, less than half of the new target of 66,000 but the Mayor argues that the capital’s crisis over a lack of affordable homes requires a doubling of efforts. Boroughs are being asked to double of even treble their speed of housebuilding to meet demand which may be an increase few can deliver.

In total 650,000 new homes are due to be built across London by 2029, with more than 250,000 in the outer suburbs. Of all London borough’s Newham and Tower Hamlets have been set the highest targets. Newham has been set the target of delivering 38,500 new homes, with Tower hamlets set the target of 35,110 by 2029.

 

Affordable Housing

Fundamental to the Mayor’s ‘Good Growth’ strategy is the rebalancing of development in London towards more genuinely affordable housing and therefore half of all new homes must be genuinely affordable for working Londoners to buy and rent, with the initial thresholds set at a minimum of 35% on private sites and at least 50% on public sector land or relevant industrial sites.

The Draft Plan sets an eventual strategic aim of 50% of all new homes to be affordable. To achieve this, strategic partners, housing providers and public sector landlords are invited to set a level of affordable housing across their portfolios. Whether this speeds up the delivery of affordable homes remains to be seen and raises the question of where the delivery of affordable homes takes place. However, many would argue that the current viability led approach is not delivering such homes quickly enough so something needs to happen to turn a laudable and urgent statement of intent into a reality so that London has sufficient decent homes for its workforce.

 

Identifying Small Sites

Instrumental in this will be the Plan’s aim to support the Boroughs in meeting their housing delivery targets by removing rules that protect local character and prioritise building on small sites, defined as those delivering up to 25 homes, with increased density and sets targets for the number of houses to be built on such sites.

Overall, it is expected that one-third of new housing will be on small sites, including in back gardens and upward extensions of existing houses, apartment blocks and shops.

Boroughs are being asked to prepare delivery focussed Development Plans which identify sites suitable for residential and mixed-use development and optimise potential for housing delivery on all suitable brownfield sites, especially those near to tube stations, rail stations or a town centre boundary.

The focus on small sites may help the Boroughs in identifying and gaining permissions on an increased stock of land, including brownfield and small pockets of greenbelt which because of surrounding development are no longer viable. It could also lead to the diversification of the housebuilding industry with smaller businesses gaining entry into the market to deliver housing on small sites.

The challenge for the Boroughs and their planning departments will be to ensure that such schemes are based on good design and that whilst some green space may reasonably be sacrificed, overall the entitlement of Londoners good quality housing design in health-promoting environments is further enhanced.

We will be working closely with our clients to ensure we can play our part in delivering on the plan to create a London fit for the future.