All I want for Christmas is the London Plan

11 Dec 2017

Policy area: Planning

Policy Officer Sam Bensted sets out the highlights of the recently published Draft London Plan.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, published the first draft of the New London Plan – the capital’s spatial framework which will serve as a guide for the economic, environmental, transport and social development for London in the years to come.

The Mayor has stated that the plan would be ambitious; deliver a step change in approach; and act as a blueprint for future development and growth in London. Whilst this emboldened rhetoric represents a considerable statement of intent, as ever, the challenge will be to translate this ambition into sound policies which deliver results.

Below is a selection of some of the highlights from the draft plan:

  • A new target of delivering 65,000 homes a year – roughly double the current rate of homebuilding. For the first time, the plan also includes a target for small sites of 24,500 homes a year
  • A 50% affordable housing target overall, with individual schemes at 35% or above being fast-tracked
  • A commitment to preserving the Green Belt, and consequently a greater focus on intensification and densification in urban areas especially in town centres and areas with good transport links
  • Affordable housing will now be measured on the basis of habitable rooms rather than units
  • The density matrix is to be scrapped in favour of ‘optimising housing density’
  •  Continued support for the BTR sector. BTR is encouraged in town centres and is able to qualify as part of affordable housing if it meets rental criteria
  • Greater emphasis on the link between infrastructure improvement and development. Areas which are to benefit from the proposed Bakerloo Line extension and Crossrail 2 will be expected to increase density significantly
  • On the capital’s industrial land, protection and intensification are the key policy strands. No net loss of industrial floorspace in strategic industrial locations, with strictly limited release

From initial impressions, outer London boroughs taking on more of the housing growth than they have been expected to in the past represents a significant policy shift. Out of 20 outer London boroughs, 13 have seen their housing targets soar by over 100% compared with the current plan. A key aspect of how these ambitious targets are to be achieved is through a greater emphasis on developing small sites, which are targeted to provide just over a third of the annual housing target of 65,000 homes – the extent to which this is deliverable will prove a key means of determining the overall success of the Mayor’s housing policy.

Further welcome developments include the continued support for the Build to Rent sector - it is encouraging to see the plan recognises the need for a more diversified housing market to address the demand/supply imbalance, as well as registering its support for Discounted Market Rent as Build to Rent’s affordable housing provision. On industrial land, it is welcome to see a policy of no net loss of industrial floorspace on strategic industrial land and a greater emphasis on intensification. However, this may appear as too little too late for some areas where occupiers have been pushed out already.

While there are some positive inclusions, greater clarity is needed on other aspects including the direction of travel for Mayoral CIL 2. The draft plan states that if Crossrail 2 does not get the go ahead, monies collected will instead be used for other strategic infrastructure projects.  It should be remembered that the initial Mayoral CIL was successful because it provided developers with certainty. Developers knew they were contributing towards a single large-scale infrastructure project (Crossrail 1) which would be to the benefit of their development in the long run, and this uncertainty is less welcome.

Further clarity on this matter is therefore needed in the upcoming consultation on the draft plan, which is now open and will run until 2nd March 2018. The BPF will respond on behalf of its members and there will be numerous opportunities to engage. Following the consultation, there will be a public examination of the plan in the Autumn 2018 with a view to publish the final London Plan by Autumn 2019.

We also have a panel discussion on the New London Plan on 13 December –  this will focus on the most important areas of the plan such as housing, industrial and commercial development and will discuss how it will shape London’s future. We hope to see many of you there.