Why May and Khan are in a ‘War of Words’ over Housing

Evening Standard – 13/10/2017 Oddly not on website.  Briefing from No 10 not city Hall.  Thanks to Daniel Bentley for the Pic.

The fatal weakness of PM May is her inability to partner with anyone.  She behaves with everyone like the worst form of hectoring boss.  Contrast her behavior on Friday with that of Lord Adonis and City Mayors in launching the National Infrastructure Assessment   on the same day.

Clearly Gavin Barwell is having an influence, but in giving May more things to panic and strut about not necessarily a good one.

The mistakes on housing, particularly planning for housing land, and the taxation of land, are so longstanding and systemic.  You can’t turn that around in a couple of years.  It would be much better to take bold long term decisions, like on Garden Cities and New Settlements, that will leave a legacy.

But lets look at another reason for Khan’s beration.  London overspill – the elephant in the room of British Planning.

London Annual Shortfall
OAN per year to 2052 Annualised Current London Plan Target Employment led (Oxford E) Total  2016-2032 Total  2016-2052
Shortfall Completions 39,351 42,000 50,000
Typical 25,000 14,351 17,000 25,000 625,000 875,000
Typical +20% 30,000 1,351 12,000 20,000 500,000 700,000
Highpoint 38,000 1,351 4,000 12,000 300,000 420,000
Highpoint +20% 45,600 -6,249 -3,600 4,400 110,000 154,000


What this table shows is scenario planning for different levels of housing shortfall in London over medium and long term planning horizons.  The three target scenario are the OAN derived from the ONS tables, the current London plan target, and the Oxford Economics estimate which Khan in speeches has said the new London Plan will adopt.  So lets go with that one.

In terms of completions I have modelled four scenarios.  The typical completions in London over the last 15 years (outside Great Recession Years), this years estimated figures as a highpoint, unlikely to be repeated, at the top of the market (permissions are slowing down markedly in London), a one off distorted by years of delayed completions from the Great Recession.  To each of these two I added a 20% uplift which assumes new policies in the London Plan to increase housebuilding.  I think by far the most likely scenario is typical +20%.  This leads to an overspill requirement outside London by 2052 of 700,000 dwellings. (note I choose 35 years as that is the time needed to build out to design size a large New Town such ad Milton Keynes or Almere, 2016 is the base for the household projections).

This is what is driving Mays panic, unless there is a doubling of completions in London there will need to be massive overspill to the shires.  The DCLG know this.  They have the data.

So how realistic is it for the Great Wen to consume all its own smoke?

700,000 dwellings = 5,833 40 Storey Tower Blocks

Hong Kong Worlds Tallest urban agglomeration has 1,303 = up to 4.4 Hong Kongs of Tower Blocks

Do we want to see this Asian Style Vertical Sprawl?

Evidence strongly that at these densities diseconomies of congestion strongly outweigh positive urban agglomeration effects (Rappaport 2008)

Mayor of London – Post Grenfell – looking at alternative to tower blocks in
Revised London Plan

At 10 Storey Olympic Village Density – 335 DPH needs 1,791 Ha – 62.5 Olympic villages, 73.2 Aylesbury Estates – 8.06 sq miles –
Westminster=8.29 Sq miles

Equivalent to All Large Scale Housing Estates in London Capable of Demolition 1,750 HA (Complete Streets/Savills for Cabinet Office 2015)

At Least £5 billion cost of demolition plus cost of rehousing – we know post Grenfell nowhere to decant to (Professor Anne Powers estimate)

At Complete Streets favoured mansion block density 135 dph only capable of 1/3 this number

Equivalent to 10 Park Royals at Complete Streets Densities

So at Complete Streets densities need to knock down all of London’s Large Estates, All its Strategic Employment Sites and then start knocking down semi detached London

Every City that has tried development on this scale and density in recent years – e.g. Moscow, Harare, Seoul has seen mass protest, mass corruption, failure of developers after mass demolitions, overcrowding from decants and political climbdowns. Unlikely to be possible in a democracy.

Its politically impossible.  Khan knows this.  May sadly is not sharp enough to realise this and worries about ‘concreting over the countryside’ like the old style Tory she is.




2 thoughts on “Why May and Khan are in a ‘War of Words’ over Housing

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