There are genuine and real options for closing London’s huge housing gap. I doubt any one will be enough – and good plans are usually hybrid options that get you to the goal.
Here i’m going to examine what a realistic London ‘brownfield max’ option would look like. London has lost so much industrial and employment land that there are few such areas left that arnt already in plans (such as Old Oak Common etc.) so wont be the needed ‘net new’ to close the massive delivery gap. Even if the flow of such sites were speeded up the stock would be depleted and although new brownfield sites come forward every year the source stock of employment land, old hospitals etc.would be from an incredibly low base. It by itself is a small part of the answer.
If you are serious about making the Green Belt ‘Inviolate’ as both Mayoral Candidates want then the only serious means of meeting national policy on meeting housing need in London is wholesale redevelopment of the existing housing stock. Unless you are going to CPO large parts of the privately owned suburbs that leaves the controversial option of redeveloping social housing estates. Set aside for the sake of argument the presumption that this would be social cleansing to drive labour voters out and was done by an enlightened Mayor who wished to deliver on his manifesto promises of building houses and protecting the Green Belt.
Most London Council Estates are small and piecemeal. Most of the worst have gone, leaving small estates often highly popular. Even Zac Goldsmith assumes no more than 25,000 units from this source. Many estates are of high architectural quality – like the Cressingham Estate in Lambeth – which far from being demolished should be refurbished and declared a conservation area.
If you wnat to go ‘Brownfield Max’ you have to look at the large concentrations of social housing and go for wholesale redevelopment of wide areas at far higher densities. There are a few candiates but by far the biggest and with best potential is Thamesmead.
Designed and developed by the GLC with ambitions to be a whole new town it was poorly executed with few notable buildings, few shops, intersected by expressway type roads & no dedicated public transport. It has public spaces and water features of great potential but overall is a concrete jungle whose planning has been hindered by division between Greenwich and Bexley.
Bungalow Bob Kerslake and Peabody have a plan to enhance the small (25ha out of 800) parts of the project which might link the Crossrail station to its heart and a couple of other places.
Its a well designed scheme which will deliver 2,800 new homes over a decade and possibly as many as another 4,200 in the next decade. Well designed and conceived but pathetic in its ambition and wholly inadequate to meet the challenge of Londons housing need and the unique opportunities of this site. Its a Bungalow scaled scheme requiring a Urban Scaled solution. This is London’s largest and best brownfield site – is this the best you can do GLA, Bexley, Greenwich? The first act of the incoming Mayor shgould be to send the plans back to the drawing board unless they can be phased as part of a more ambitious scheme.
The opportunities here are unique as- as well as Crossrail
-You can extend the Northern Line extending its South London Extension – as long ago planned by the GLA.
-There is potential for a rail and DLR bridge to North of the River.
-You could extend the Jubilee line (as originally planned) also to serve a redeveloped London City Airport
-There are lost on the shelf plans for tram/BRT to the East and West
-You can throw in Crossness Sewage works and replace it with an underground facility on 10% of the site – as in done in many cities around the world now where land is at a premium – like Beijing for example.
-The horrific A2016 can be relocated within a comprehensive scheme to where it does not destroy the coherence of the area.
In other words the area could be as well connected as any in London. If so could it be developed to ‘central densities’ according to the SRQ matrix?
Assuming 400 units per ha – 35% for roads, open space and public facilities – an international norm that over 250,000 units if you include Crossness. If you include some very high density areas around key transport nodes I think you could push that to around 350,000 units, around 12 times the current number of units. What a criminal waste of land. This alone could meet around 60% of London’s housing gap over the next 20 years. It would mean however London getting serious about developing ba new nodal centre – as Paris did with La Defence for example (without pretending that is a good design).
If the incoming Mayor is serious about there manifesto pledges then get on with it at Thamesmead and similar large sites in London, if its all show then please stop playing politics and support Garden Cities around London as its clear you dont have a serious option for ‘brownfield max’.