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Jenrick and Khan exchange letters over London Plan

Words: Laura Edgar

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has issued two directions to the London Plan, one regarding the green belt and the other tall buildings.

Jenrick’s letter was sent to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on 10 December – a day after the mayor sent one to the housing secretary stating his intention to publish the London Plan.

On 9 December 2019, Khan first wrote to the housing secretary explaining that he intended to publish the plan.

In March 2020, Jenrick ordered Khan not to publish the plan because he considered the mayor to have failed to meet housebuilding targets and had not been ambitious enough when setting out plan policies.

He ordered a number of amendments to policies in the ‘intend to publish’ version of the plan, including:

  • Deletion of policies relating to affordable housing contributions from small sites.
  • The requirement for a more aggressive approach to densification in both urban and suburban areas.
  • A shift in emphasis in the mayor’s desired new housing mix.
  • A watering down of Khan’s blanket ban on development on green belt and metropolitan open land.

Writing on 9 December this year, Khan said that shortly after this missive his officials sent a number of proposed amendments to the directions to the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government (MHCLG). Khan did not receive a response to these proposals, although he acknowledged that the ministry has faced “unprecedented challenges” in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However,” he wrote, “I also note that during this period the department has had capacity to undertake other significant areas of work such as proposed changes to the planning system.”

What the capital needs at the minute, for Khan, “is certainty and publication of the London Plan is crucial to London’s recovery” from the pandemic.

He continued, ”I therefore intend to publish a new London Plan based on our best understanding of your views to date”.

In his response, Jenrick said he agreed that “moving towards adoption” of the London Plan would help families and businesses in the capital “build back better”. However, he believes that since he issued the directions in March, other issues have arisen.

The first direction has been issued in light of Covid-19. “I am issuing a further direction in relation to Direction DR4, specifically regarding updated para 6.4.8. This is a modest amendment to my previous direction which will provide boroughs in the difficult position of facing the release of green belt or Metropolitan Open Land with a greater freedom to consider the use of industrial land in order to meet housing needs.”

The second direction is in relation to policy D9 – tall buildings. Jenrick explained that there are some areas of the capital where tall buildings do not reflect the character of the area. Khan’s draft policy “goes some way to dealing with this concern” but Jenrick suggests going further.

“In my view we should go further and I am issuing a further direction to strengthen the policy to ensure such developments are only brought forward in appropriate and clearly defined areas, as determined by the boroughs whilst still enabling gentle density across London. I am sure that you share my concern about such proposals and will make the required change which will ensure tall buildings do not come forward in inappropriate areas of the capital,” the housing secretary wrote.

Jenrick urged Khan to address all of the directions before resubmitting his ‘intention to publish’ version of the London Plan.

Read Sadiq Khan’s letter here on the Greater London Authority (GLA) website (pdf).

Read Robert Jenrick’s letter here on the UK Government website (pdf).

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