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23/03/2016

Mayor of London publishes planning guidance to protect commercial heartland

Words: Laura Edgar
West End

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has published new planning guidance aimed at protecting London’s “vibrant commercial heartland” to ensure that it can remain a “key driver” of the UK economy.

The supplementary planning guidance, which was released last week, concerns London’s ‘Central Activities Zone’.

It runs from Kensington Gardens and Paddington in the west of the capital, to Aldgate in the east, from King’s Cross and Euston in the north to Elephant and Castle and Battersea Power Station in the south.

The area employs more than 1.7 million people across a roughly 13-square-mile area. According to the mayor, it generates nearly 10 per cent of the UK’s economic output.

However, office space in the area has recently been lost to new housing, which threatens the capital’s “economic pre-eminence”.

The demand for new homes does not need to be at the expense of office, business space and culture, according to the guidance, said the mayor.

“The heart of the capital is the foundation of London’s reputation as the best city in the world in which to do business. While we continue to do all we can to increase housing supply city-wide, it is also vital that we protect our office space so central London continues to be a key generator of economic prosperity for the entire country,” said Johnson.

The Central Activities Zone: Supplementary Planning Guidance, which is aimed at planners, developers and local authorities, includes:

  • Work to address tension in central London between residential and office, following a recent announcement that from May 2019 planning permission for change of use won’t be required. This replaces an exemption Johnson negotiated in 2014 to protect office space. The mayor is working with local authorities to bring forward Article 4 direction so they can continue to determine change of use planning applications.

  • Criteria stating that new residential development is not appropriate in the centre and northern Isle of Dogs. It pinpoints where commercial use should be prioritised over new residential development, including the West End, King’s Cross, London Bridge and Waterloo.

  • Outlines for potential additional housing capacity, such as building new homes in specific parts of the city and renewing existing homes. New housing should not compromise Central Activity Zone functions. The guidance also contains a note stating that over the next 10 years the London Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment has identified that the zone has the capacity to deliver more than 40,000 homes.

  • Suggestions for promoting movement by walking and cycling and encouraging investment in existing and new in transport infrastructure to support development.


Delivering 40,000 homes in the Central Activities Zone

According to law firm Addleshaw Goddard, the target of delivering 40,000 homes in the Central Activities Zone by 2025 is a “pipe dream” without support for house builders.

The law firm claims that to deliver this number of homes, the mayor would need to double the current annual rate of supply.

Marnix Elsenaar, partner and head of planning at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “It is easy for the mayor to set targets but without supply-side measures they will remain just that – targets. Rising construction costs mean that it will be a challenge simply to maintain current delivery rates.

"The mayor and government need to take action to tackle the alarming skills shortage in the construction industry and do more to make public land available for development."


The Central Activities Zone: Supplementary Planning Guidance can be found here.

Image credit | Shuttershock

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