The London Plan Does not Have to be Sound – So How will the Overspill Impass be Solved?

Last month NLP published a fascinating report on how the overspill from London might be met.

The number of houses that could therefore be exported across the South East from London over the next 10 years.. is between 70,000 and 200,000.

“This will necessitate LPAs that have a relationship with London’s housing market to plan for both their own needs as well as additional overspill from London.

“This is not something the GLA appears to have properly addressed, and the FALP does not deal with the issue.

“This, and the failure of the FALP to include a green belt review, is a significant omission that means the FALP is unsound.

There are a few problems with this.  Legally any plan (and the London plan is an SDS not a local plan) can only deal with proposals in their area. Though they can suggest overspill outside it.  Secondly the legislation covering the London plan is pre 2004.  That means it does not have top be sound. The Mayor has the power to reject panel recommendations unless the SoS uses reserve powers.  Thirdly of course under the ‘Boles doctrine’   the panel could only politely suggest a Green Belt review.  Which the Mayor of course would reject.

So how will the impasse be resolved?  The Mayor is covered by the DTC.  But providing they suggest what the overspill need is and engage constrictively he has met the duty.  Of course this just screws up dozens of plans in the ROSE (rest of South East) area.   So what to do?  London might be aboe to take some more.  But there will likely still be an overspill the scale of housing need is so great.  The SoS might also find themselves in a vulnerable position. Lets say the FALP panel recommends a limited Green Belt review in low amenity areas of the Metropolitan Green Belt close to public transport. Not a big source of supply as we have demonstrated on here before but a probable panel result. Lets say the Mayor rejects this and the SoS does not intervene.  This would then shoft 35,000 or so extra houses to the ROSE  area requiring further Green Belt releases outside London. Lets say then the SoS does not intervene.  This would leave the SoS vulnerable to JR as the sites outside London might be more important for Green Belt purposes less accessible and of greater Landscape value.  As recent debates in the West Midlands have demonstrated the issue of harm to the Green Belt is of which sites are least sensitive irrespective of which authpority they are in. Witness Cannock Chases letter to Brum. Hence any failure of the Mayor to conduct a Green Belt review and move to adopt the London Plan against a panel recommendation could lead to a coordinated JR from dozens of ROSE authorities.  Which would be interesting as the SDS legislation is so old and no longer fit for purpose.

Ok rather than everyone JRing the hell out of each other (conveniently after the next election when Paxo might be taking over from Boris) will sense prevail?  Boris might have the courage to commission the kind of quasi regional planning report as Birmingham have done suggesting where the overspill might go.  Unlikely Central Government would lean on him not to especially before an election.  ROSE authorities might do the same, even more unlikely why should Turkeys vote for Christmas? The only party whicch might would be the SOS which under this government is unlikely.

So what is the most likely outcome? Under the DTC authorities outside the Metropolitan Green Belt and inside London’s commuting range, like East Herts and East Cambs, will get crushed, at EIP and on appeal.  Eventually they might go for Garden Cities but given the London lead in time they would still get crushed on appeal for the next 10 years. Authorities wasjed over by the Me Green Belt, like Brentwood.  They have no incentive to put forward a local plan at al given the Pickles doctrine that housing need is not a very special circumstance.   In all a very special mess that will take a decade to fix following five years without planning.  In the interim villages outside the Green Belt with services will be crushed by inappropriately sized estates.

Can Any Local Plan in the SE Advance with 51 Authorities Meeting London Shortfall


The councils were responding to a letter from Stewart Murray, the GLA’s assistant director of planning, to Bedford Borough Council in March during a consultation on thedraft Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP).

The FALP sets the capital’s ten-year housing target at 42,000 homes a year, but outlines an annual housing need of between 49,000 and 62,000.

In the letter, Murray said he wishes to “strongly advise” the council to take account of a potential gap between housing supply and a growing demand in their local plans.

The councils’ letter to Murray warns of “widespread concerns that (the FALP) potentially undershoots the provision of future homes that London needs”.

They say Murray’s letter “could be interpreted as suggesting that local authorities beyond London may need to play a part in making good any shortfall in supply”.

The councils express “real concerns” about this, stating that South East authorities “cannot possibly come to a realistic view on what level of need London might be failing to plan for or provide and what proportion of that failure it should seek to plan for in its development plan”.

Any need for the South East to contribute should be “tackled in a strategic and collaborative way” within the context of a “fundamental review” of the London Plan, it adds.

The authorities ask Murray for “confirmation that there is no intention or expectation for local authorities outside London to specifically plan for any level of London unmet need”.

Catriona Riddell, the Planning Officers Society’s strategic planning convener, said: “The surrounding authorities are in an impossible situation.

“The Mayor’s ‘softly, softly’ approach means that they have no idea what’s expected of them in supporting London’s growth.”

Sir Edward Lister, the GLA’s deputy mayor for planning, said the Mayor was “not asking councils outside London to take London’s unmet housing need” but was “simply recommending common sense, coordinated regional planning to ensure London and the south east’s housing needs are met over the coming years”.

So ‘common sense coordinated regional planning’ is the only way out of this impass – back to regional planning.  But under what structure and organised and led by whom?