Last week saw the first meeting of the London Assembly’s Planning Committee since May’s elections. This short blog post picks out a few of the key issues discussed by Assembly Members (AMs).
The meeting focussed on strategic planning and infrastructure issues in London, with a number of experts invited to give evidence and answer questions. AMs sought to establish what direction the new Mayor of London and his team were going to take in his revised London Plan.
John Lett, (Strategic Planning Manager in the London Plan Team at the GLA) began the session by giving an overview of headline growth estimates and how an amended London Plan might accommodate these. He suggested that 70-80,000 new homes might now be needed each year to keep up with housing need. Current capacity, however, is currently between just 42-50,000, depending on figures used. More new housing was being approved than before, with about 270,000 homes in the pipeline. However, completions generally stood at only half the figure for approvals. Looking at how the London Plan might seek to deliver this growth a number of options were highlighted, including town centre intensification, suburban intensification, and reassessing London’s relationship with its local authority neighbours in the South East.
On that latter point, there was a good deal of discussion about how London needs to co-operate with neighbouring local authorities, with Nicky Gavron AM reminding AMs that the Planning Inspector had said after the last London Plan that this relationship needed to be reviewed. This looks likely to be a major area of focus for the new London Plan.
Gavron also raised the issue of modular building, a subject she has championed at several previous Assembly meetings. Tony Pidgley (Chair of the Berkeley Group plc) told the committee how his company had successfully refined this model to develop their new Kidbrooke Village. AMs were interested in the potential modular building might have in helping to solve London’s housing needs. Nicky Gavron subsequently announced that she would soon be acting as rapporteur for the Planning Committee to gather more detailed evidence and make recommendations on the subject.
James Murray, the Deputy Mayor for Housing, confirmed that he was working on supplementary planning guidance to the London Plan. He hoped this could be issued in the next couple of months to give some certainty for developers and investors. The guidance would cover issues such as affordable housing and build to rent.
Build to rent was also discussed by other expert guests, who pointed to the potential it has for providing new housing more quickly than other models. Asked what incentives there might be for the buy to rent sector, Liz Peace suggested that it might be helpful to have a specific rental use class introduced, a proposal that interested some of the AMs.
The session also included a long discussion about permitted development, with Naveen Shah AM expressing concern at the effect the policy has had in denuding several London Boroughs of employment land, as well as criticising what he sees as a lessening of living space and other standards for the new homes built in its place. James Murray said he wanted to see the new London Plan set out strategic locations where it was important to retain employment land, and added that the Mayor’s Office would support Boroughs in gaining article 4 directions. Longer term conversations would need to be had with Government about the whole policy area around permitted development.
In the meantime, you might be interested in reading our new ‘Engaging with City Hall’ briefing note, which can be viewed and downloaded below.
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