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20/12/2019

The mayor’s ‘intend to publish’ version of the new London Plan: Are we there yet?

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London / iStock-585295052

The final version of the London Plan leaves unanswered questions about how the mayor intends to meet London's projected housing need, says Tom Davies

Two years on from the launch of the draft new London Plan, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has now issued a final version of plan (as he intends it be published, at least) to the secretary of state.

This version includes several amendments made by the mayor in response to the recommendations put forward by the Panel of Inspectors, following the plan’s Examination in Public earlier this year. 

Housing target down

Crucially, the mayor has agreed to reduce the plan’s 10-year housing target from 649,350 homes to 522,850. Whilst the panel broadly supported the mayor’s approach to assessing London’s housing need, it was not convinced by the Mayor’s small sites modelling, which it concluded was neither effective or justified, leading to the removal of that policy and the adjustment of the plan’s ten-year housing target.

This bumps up London’s unmet housing need by a further 14,000 dwellings per annum, so the mayor will be under increasing pressure to find new sites for development. However, contrary to the recommendations of the panel, he has declined to commit to carrying out a strategic review of London’s green belt and Metropolitan Open Land.

Will this impact employment sites?

Not only might this exacerbate affordability issues of London’s existing housing stock, the situation could also have unfavourable consequences for London’s industrial and employment sites, which may come under additional pressure for redevelopment. 

Whilst the plan has attempted to meet London’s industrial development needs through the protection and intensification of existing designated industrial sites, the panel had raised concerns over the practicality and viability of the policies which seek to intensify industrial land through the colocation of different uses. 

With only a small supply of surplus industrial sites left to provide additional capacity, concerns were also raised as to whether such an approach would sufficiently meet future demand for industrial space within the capital. The decision not to commit to a strategic review of the green belt was rejected in this context too.

Green belt commitment 

From the mayor’s perspective, a more open approach to London’s green belt would mean relinquishing on a key manifesto pledge of his and potentially compromising the effectiveness of other policies in the plan. Others might view it as unrealistic and essentially an unwillingness to properly plan for London’s existing and future needs.

As the plan continues to diverge from national policy, it seems likely that the secretary of state will require the mayor to make further amendments to the plan, lest its publication be blocked by a holding direction. 

Given the mayoral elections in May, the mayor might take a pragmatic view and make any required changes so as to get the plan over the line, in order to avoid his strategy falling by the wayside if a new mayor were to be elected. All will become clear in the new year; the secretary of state must respond to the mayor by 20 January 2020.

Tom Davies is a planner with Lichfields

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