The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched his Draft London Plan today, a 530-page document which sets out his vision for the capital from 2019-2041. Speaking in east London at one of Europe’s largest developments, Barking Riverside, Khan outlined an ambition for a London that “welcomes growth, celebrates its diversity and ensures every Londoner gets the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
Khan’s document is the third full version to be published, following Ken Livingstone’s in 2004 and Boris Johnson’s in 2011. Open to public consultation from Friday (1 December), it will then go through an Integrated Impact Assessment and Public Examination, with the final London Plan published in autumn 2019.
Six ‘Good Growth’ policies
The capital’s new blueprint for planning is built upon the Mayor’s six principles for ‘Good Growth’, focusing on shaping a city that has strong and inclusive communities, uses land effectively, is healthy, delivers a high number of quality of homes, has a strong economy and improves its efficiency and resilience.
The Draft Plan encourages greater intensification of town centres by relaxing density limits, while further protecting London’s Green Belt. It will also create additional areas for growth through several new Opportunity Areas that have been made possible by forthcoming transport improvements.
The Draft Plan contains details of the much-anticipated new Opportunity Areas and Growth Corridors. Crossrail 2 will provide the catalyst for a new growth strategy in the north at Lee Valley, Wood Green / Haringey Heartlands, New Southgate and Thames Estuary, and to the south at Clapham Junction, Wimbledon and Kingston. It also reiterates the need for growth around the forthcoming Crossrail 1 in the east and west of the capital, as well as the opportunity areas associated with High Speed 2, City Thameslink and the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham.
The GLA’s recently published Strategic Housing Market Assessment rates London’s 10-year housing need at nearly 650,000 units with housing demand especially high in Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets (the local authority with the highest housing need in the whole of England). Another borough with a high housing need, Croydon, will form part of the ‘Tram Triangle’ with Wimbledon and Sutton. An extension of the Tramlink to Sutton town centre could support the delivery of over 10,000 homes. TfL and the GLA are working together to produce a business case and funding package for new housing and business opportunities across the south London area.
The past decade has seen London’s workforce increasingly take refuge from the capital’s housing crisis in the outer boroughs and wider south-east of England. In response to this, the Mayor says he will aim to work with partners across the region to address shared challenges, seeking greater collaboration and a new “regional dynamism” with non-London local authorities.
Brownfield sites will continue to be the key focus for housing delivery with smaller sites (and smaller developers) expected to play a much larger role. The Mayor says 24,500 homes per year can be delivered on these sites and he will be asking boroughs to approve smaller developments on the basis that they meet his design standards.
The Mayor’s ambition to make over half of London green by the middle of the century is supported by a Draft Plan that is unequivocal about protecting the capital’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Space. It therefore seeks to enable housing growth by removing the capital’s “outdated constraints and rigid density guidelines”. Councils will now be able to agree density limits with developers on a case-by-case basis, considering infrastructure, nearby developments and other local factors when determining potential capacity of sites. Failure to maximise use of space in planning applications will result in their refusal.
Development will be encouraged around town centres, with the Draft Plan seeking to embolden London as polycentric city. Moreover, as part of a long-term ambition for car-free developments, residential parking will be increasingly limited in areas where Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL) are high.
Housing affordability remains a priority for the Mayor. While there will be no changes to the definition of affordable housing, the Draft Plan seeks to enshrine the Mayor’s pledge of delivering 50 per cent affordable housing on sites that use public land. He will also clamp down on offsite affordable housing and cash in lieu donations, with these only being acceptable in “exceptional circumstances.”
Build-to-rent (BTR) schemes in the capital will also come under increased scrutiny. All new BTR developments will need to provide at least 50 units, and upon completion will be required to offer three-year tenancies to all tenants, as well as providing rent certainty for the period of the tenancy. For BTR schemes to follow the Fast Track Route through planning they must deliver at least 35 per cent affordable housing, of which at least 30 per cent should be at London Living Rent Level.
Khan is perhaps aiming to temper criticism of increasing density in London by placing a heavy focus on high-quality design. Chapter three outlines his aspiration: “buildings should be of high quality and enhance, activate and appropriately frame the public realm.” Planning departments across London will be strengthened with a new ability to demand that schemes retain the same architect from planning permission through to delivery.
Londoners can expect more tall buildings in the decades to come as the Mayor’s loosening of density restrictions will encourage high-rise developments across the capital. Keen to point out that all new buildings will be subject to appropriate design standards, the Draft Plan adds that the Mayor will work alongside boroughs to produce a “strategic overview of tall building locations across London and will seek to utilise 3D virtual-reality digital modelling to help identify these areas.”
Economy and businesses
One way in which new housing developments will be limited is through changes to Permitted Development Rights (PDR). Boroughs will be encouraged to remove the rights for office, light industrial and retail use to be converted to residential use in an attempt to “sustain town centre vitality and viability.” The Mayor appears to have listened to the concerns of industry bodies who have long complained about the rapid loss of industrial space across the capital, and announced that he would limit the industrial land release policy. Khan will also support the intensification of Strategic Industrial Locations (SIL).
The Draft Plan also seeks to respond to the capital’s changing economy by encouraging diverse forms of office and working spaces. To further promote the capital’s strong start-up culture, the Mayor will attempt to encourage and protect lower cost and affordable workspace and the re-use of surplus large spaces for smaller units. Other surplus office space will also be used for housing where appropriate.
- In response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Mayor will use his powers to minimise the risk of fires spread, arguing for a “suitable and convenient means of escape” and a “robust strategy for evacuation” from London’s buildings
- The Mayor wants to integrate heritage buildings more effectively into new developments
- The Draft Plan included a reiteration of a promise to refuse fracking applications in London
- Nightlife and cultural venues will be protected, including through exemptions from noise regulation for theatres, concert halls, pubs and live music venues
- More public toilets across the city will be welcomed, and the Mayor will push for more gender-neutral facilities