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29/11/2017

London Plan: Reaction

Words: Laura Edgar

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has published his draft London Plan, with a focus on small sites and a commitment to tackling the capital’s housing shortage welcomed.

Plan must deliver

 

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group, London First, said: "London's success comes from the people who live and work here and we've been failing to build the homes they need for too long. The mayor's commitment to tackling our housing crisis is hugely welcome, but the London Plan must now deliver its part.

"By being smart about how and where we build, making better use of land and setting targets that councils can and must hit, the mayor will help open a door for the countless people priced out of a place to call home."

Better use of small sites essential

 

Brian Berry, chief executive at the Federation of Master Builders said: “Making better use of the many existing small sites that are scattered over the capital is essential if we are to build the number of new homes Londoners need. The London Plan’s moves to favour appropriate residential development on small sites is therefore a welcome initiative. It will also boost and strengthen the capacity of small and medium-sized house builders to build more new homes.

“FMB research has consistently shown that a lack of available and viable land is the main factor constraining the ability of small builders to deliver more homes. Indeed, over half of SME house builders believe that the number of small site opportunities is, if anything, decreasing. The London Plan goes further to address this issue than the proposed changes to national policy laid out in the government’s husing white paper. In order to reach the 66,000 new homes London needs to build each year, this renewed emphasis on small sites is vital.”

Motivation appears to be that the ‘green girdle’ should be protected

 

Anita Rivera, head of planning at law firm Mishcon de Reya, said that on the face of it, it “makes sense to protect green open spaces as a vital ingredient to the physical and mental wellbeing of an urban population. One could question, however, whether areas designated as green belt – many of which were designated more than 60 years ago – currently fulfil their purpose”.

"There is also the question of whether protection of the 'green girdle' is more important than town planning considerations which may enable a greater number of people to benefit from green spaces. The motivation appears to be that the 'green girdle' must be protected without question and that the need for housing must be satisfied within these constraints.

"We currently face a critical housing crisis. Unquestioning and complete protection of the green belt will likely prevent us from being able to look objectively at all possible ways of enabling delivery of housing through proper town and country planning considerations."

Checking over the detail

 

Nicky Gavron AM, chair of the planning committee at the London Assembly, said: “We welcome this new London Plan, as it is the most important strategic document the London Mayor produces.  It’s clear we’re going to need new policies to face the capital’s new challenges.

“The London Assembly is the key scrutiny body holding the Mayor to account on this and as such, our Planning Committee will be going through the detail in this document with a fine-tooth comb, over the next three months.”

War declared on the suburbs

 

London Assembly member Andrew Boff said: “With the publication of this London Plan, Sadiq Khan has declared war on the suburbs.

“For all the mayor’s talk of increasing green space, we have no greater protection for the green belt and are instead facing a land grab for every inch of garden in our capital.

“The abandonment of sensible unit restrictions will see families crammed into rabbit hutch developments with no provision for parking if they live anywhere near a train station.

“The mayor’s entire approach signals a downgrading in the quality of the capital’s housing and will leave outer London browner, overcrowded and harder to get around.”

Interesting to see how ambitious target will be delivered

 

Paul Landsberg, associate at Nexus Planning, said: “Given previous delivery rates, it will be interesting to observe how the mayor’s ambitiously increased housing target in the new London Plan from 423,887 homes (or 42,389 homes per year) to 649,350 homes (or 64,935 homes per year) would be achieved. This may in part be the reason for the emphasis on housing delivery on small sites (of less than 0.25ha), which are targeted to provide just over a third of the annual housing target.”

Landsberg said developers will likely welcome the opportunities to optimise housing density beyond current regulations.

“However, this may be counterbalanced by the new London Plan’s stated intention of embedding affordable housing requirements into land values.”

He added: “The mayor’s previous affordable housing guidance is now enshrined in policy within the new London Plan, which may see developers making more use of the Fast Track Route to avoid the transparent scrutiny of viability assessments, as well as avoiding subsequent early and late stage viability reviews.”

Affordable housing supported above anything else

 

Fergus Charlton, legal director at law firm TLT, said: “The draft plan sets out the cascade to be followed where it has been demonstrated that planning obligations cannot viably be supported by a specific development.

“Affordable housing is supported above all other contributions by being placed at the top of the cascade. This is followed by support for the delivery of transport improvements.

“Under this policy, in areas with no CIL regime, provision for education and community open space will be the losers. However, the inherent difficulties of clearly substantiating viability prior to the submission of the application and the raising of the viability hurdle mean that fewer applicants will be troubled with trying to identify what should be dropped from the planning officer's shopping-list of planning obligations.”

Katherine Evans, partner and head of planning at  TLT, commented: “Through this plan, Sadiq Khan has clearly demonstrated his intentions to uphold his pledges on building more affordable housing. Almost every type of accommodation that might be considered even remotely residential has been targeted for affordable housing contributions in some way.

“Policies relating to small sites, housing sites for the elderly, student accommodation and shared living units have all seen change in an attempt to make it easier to deliver affordable housing. For example, purpose built student accommodation will require 35 per cent of bedrooms to be affordable.”


Read more:

London Plan: Density limits removed and new minimum space standards outlined

London Plan: Khan lays out his proposals for fracking, cycling, the green belt and pubs


Image credit | Shutterstock

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