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10/06/2021

London Plan: How reviving industrial land can tackle the housing crisis

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The London Plan's accommodation of industrial land as a potential location for housing should lead to interesting mixed-use schemes, says Andrew Dowell. 

A lot has happened since the ‘new’ London Plan began life in October 2016: Brexit, two general elections, the climate emergency and Covid continue to restructure our lives.

But after four years of its own turmoil, the plan was formally adopted by Mayor Sadiq Khan in March. Making London zero-carbon by 2030, protecting the green belt, and a long-term target for 50 per cent affordable homes in new developments are flagship targets. There’s a lot to unpack, from tall buildings to density designs. Building 52,000 homes a year – downgraded from 65,000 – is the plan’s driving force.

An interesting area to explore is how we can reimagine industrial land to meet housing needs. Directions from the housing secretary in 2020 required the mayor to take a “more proportionate stance” in the balance between protecting industrial land and releasing it to areas with high demand for housing, and to remove the ‘no net loss’ requirement for existing industrial land.

This resulted in policies that seek to ensure that designated industrial sites remain the main source of land for industrial, logistics and employment functions. But the policies also recognise that such sites can play a key role in tackling the housing crisis.

“This could deliver a range of modern intensified employment and industrial uses co-existing with residential, office and town centre needs”

The removal of the ‘no net loss’ principle and the push for consideration to be given to releasing sites for other uses in higher vacancy areas should both promote greater flexibility.

The fundamental shift of the industrial policies creates opportunities for boroughs to adjust their thinking, and should lead to interesting mixed-use schemes in areas once considered off limits. With a clear masterplan or a plan-led approach, alternative non-industrial uses could optimise large areas of land.

This could deliver a range of modern intensified employment and industrial uses coexisting with housing, office and town centre needs.

Ahead of the post-Covid recovery, there is scope for boroughs to support mixed-use places where people can live and work. The challenge will be ensuring the land fulfils its allocated role in local plans, but I anticipate innovative thinking between industrial and residential developers, and from new development typologies and delivery modes.

Andrew Dowell is a senior planner with Ingleton Wood 

Image credit | Shutterstock

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