Today Sadiq Khan published ‘A City for All Londoners’ a overall policy statement on the direction of travel for all the Mayors strategies in particular the review of the London Plan.
To meet the demands of the growing population, experts say we will need to identify land in the capital to build at least 50,000 homes every year between now and 2041
Well that’s a doubling of the current 24,230 houses a year. The trend is upwardfs but at the current rate we wont hit 30,000 houses a year for another decade and assuming no market downturn in that period.
How does the Mayor address the challenges?
So what about the options for meeting the shortfall?
In the first instance, I want to protect the Green Belt and other designated green spaces. That means taking bold measures to meet as much of the city’s growth demands within London as possible.
I will protect and sustain the important, job-creating role of these areas of strategic national and international importance [central activities zone], by resisting moves to convert offices to housing unless this can be justified.
While recognising the need to promote economic growth, I know that the economy is changing and that we must use land intelligently – particularly in the context of a housing crisis that threatens the competitiveness of the city. In some areas, industrial land may be surplus to current needs and could be better used for housing. It may be possible to relocate industry to other areas of the city without disrupting the economy or eroding the critical base of industrial land. And it may be feasible for housing and industrial activity to co-exist in certain locations.
But how is that different from teh current London Plan opportunities areas and housing zones? The mayor proposes currently no new ones and we know this scale of land use change is insufficient – all housing zones together would meet one year of London’s housing needs?
So what about intensification of the suburbs after ruling out the scale of change in land use required.
Intensifying development around well-connected transport nodes will form an important part of my vision for the city, and I will explore the potential of areas around a number of stations as locations for significant and much higher-density housing development.
Existing policy – where are the new areas.
And the suburbs?
Other global cities show that it is possible to increase the density of our suburbs without sacrificing the ‘feel’ of these areas. So as well as developing stations in town centres in Outer London, I want to see more smaller-scale housing development in appropriate suburban locations, which will also create opportunities for small local construction firms to build homes.
Wee under Ken Livingstone the London Plan ‘maximised’ development densities, under Boris they ‘optimised’ them under Sadiq Kahn he minimises the scale of change so the feel of no area changes. This is not a loosening of policy but a tightening that will deliver no more than a few thousand new homes a year and nowhere near the doubling of output needed.
If Khan wishes to hit 50,000 homes a year without loss of Green Belt and significant loss of employment land he needs to bite the bullet and allow for radical increrases in density tearing down two storey houses and replacing them with tower blocks over a borough or two in size. If he doesn’t do this he isn’t seeking to seriously address London’s housing needs. He is sloughing it off to his successors and other authorities in the Green Belt and beyond who will have to mop up the huge housing overspill that his policies will continue and exacerbate.
This is not to state that we should radically rebuild London’s suburbs. Some up lift in density is desirable, but radical rebuilding is politically dangerous and the one city which has tried it trying to fix a tight Green Belt – Seoul – failed, as large areas were ripped down and remained unbuilt following a market downturn.
Khan needs to consider the modest changes to Londons land uses being considered in places with bold leadsherip such as Birmingham, and Greater Manchester, realising a small proportion of Londons Green Belt as part of a balenced regional plan including some housing in the Green Belt outside London and New Garden Cities Outside London including some in but mostly beyond the Green Belt linked to new transport connections.