Analysis of the Draft London Plan

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04 December 2017

Analysis of the Draft London Plan

By Arney Fender Katsalidis

Earle Arney, CEO, Arney Fender Katsalidis' offers his analysis of the recently announced Mayor of London's draft London Plan  one of the most important documents for the capital. The draft London Plan will be open for consultation until March 2018.

PLANNING
A radical plan but not radical enough. Muscular moves to speed the process of bringing housing to the market are needed. The current planning process is a handbrake to solving the housing supply crisis. After all, another two decades of tinkering with existing planning legislation will not quench London’s housing supply drought. What we need is focused attention by an independent Development Authority empowered to deliver set housing targets on the GLA’s Brownfield land, Opportunity sites and Intensification Areas. We’ve done it before; think of the Olympic Development Authority which achieved (what was, we thought at its inception) the unachievable. We are in the hour where decisive action needs to rein, unencumbered by local politics. We have a once in a generation chance to ride on the wave of social consciousness that the Mayor has mustered, to solve an embarrassing housing supply problem which is drowning in an ineffectual planning system.

SUPPLY
We must protect the things that make London great. The Green Belt is one of those essential elements that makes London liveable. The Mayor is right to protect it. Indeed, the green belt was an amenity that encouraged me to become a Londoner a decade ago. To this day, the Green Belt looms large in my love of London. I have argued for many years that there is enough land to house everyone in Greater London without sacrificing the Green Belt.  Research I recently commissioned and presented to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) also proves the thesis that London’s 2050 population target can be accommodated exclusively by developing GLA identified sites outside the Green Belt - all at densities not much greater than Notting Hill.

DENSITY
It’s encouraging that the Mayor has unshackled development from the outdated density limits unnecessarily curtailing the growth of Greater London. This blunt instrument of the past failed to acknowledge that cities are the most sustainable construct we have, and that many of the most liveable cities in the world are our most dense.  As we wrestle to improve our Victorian rail infrastructure, isn't it also time that we elevate urban and suburban density to reduce travel distances and compress commute times.  Eliminating density caps is the first step – rewarding an increase in density for good design and by linking the two, is the next logical leap. It’s time to move beyond a prohibitive planning system. 

HOUSING FOR ALL
I concur that the Mayor is right to raise the affordable housing targets; as long as it is a level playing field for all developers. But the plan should go further and remember the ‘forgotten middle’ – those not eligible for ‘affordable housing’ and can’t afford to buy a home. One way this could be achieved is by being more proactive in incentivising Build-to-Rent.

DEMAND
Similarly muscular moves are required to help to stimulate housing demand. I agree with the Mayor that the recent budget was lukewarm for London. Although Sadiq Khan doesn’t enjoy fiscal control of the Exchequer, every effort needs to be made to eliminate the barriers to home purchases and property downsizing.