The London Plan and Suburban Intensification – A Greenford Case Study

The London Plan contains an important new policy on small site intensification (25 units or less) designed to help bridge the gap between housing need and the SHLAA assessed numbers.

It will help though not fill the gap, however the risk is that if not designed well it will be used as a presumption in favour free for all for poorly conceived schemes.

We have learned a lot internationally of best practice in zoning for intensification.  the best defence for outer boroughs that fear this is to plan it and design it with design codes, as the London plan draft rather weakly hints at.

As a case study as to what this might look like ill take Greenford it that it is high;y accessible but has lower densities that some nearby areas such as Alperton, Southall and Ealing and has few ‘nicely designed’ suburban estates.  It also has industrial areas which are prime candidates for intensification with mixed uses being narrow and next to canals and open spaces rather than large industrial areas such as Park Royal which has many areas best kept free of residential on noise and HGV amenity grounds.

The scope of this article however is on residential intensification.  Ill look here at the area just south of Grenford tube station, all 30s Osbert Lancaster bypass variegated style housing.

The key for zoning is such areas is to classify by back lot line and plot depth.  The back lot line is the line at the rear of the plot.  There are many plots where houses back onto houses which limits the density because of privacy concerns.  There are also as you see lots that back onto open spaces, rear lanes, railway lines and industry which have much more potential, as do corner lots.

The other main parameter is number of lots in a scheme.  A key concept here is ‘graduated density zoning’ where the number of allowed units is increased as the number of lots is increased, as lesser set in requirements mean more units can be accommodated on site.

In this suggested approach you would classify lots according to these parameters and then do test fits of different development forms on these lots.  You would then set down a design code, potentially allowing permission in principle for compliant schemes, zoning in good practice and zoning out undesirable forms (such as controversial end on schemes).

To take an example a single semi plot with a depth of less than 40m might only allow for redevelopment to three storys and maximum 3 units.  Combine two lots and you could go up to 4 storys and 4 units.  For deeper lots without a residential rear lot line this could be increased to six storys and up to 10 units, 20 units for 4 or more combined lots, 25 for 5 combined lots.  Corner lots could gain an extra story and a 20% unit boost.  FAR would be used to prevent the system being gamed with overlarge unit sizes, indeed with FAR you need to rely much less on complex dwelling mix rules.

Such schemes are controversial everywhere, but they need to be introduced if we are to be serious on intensification.  the GLA should sponsor with Boroughs a number of pilots, without the cop out of stripping all street names out of the final report.

If you want to totally screw up the National Infrastructure Regime Add Fracking to it

Successful fracking fields have 100s if not thousands of wells.  In the US 125,000 have been dug since 2005.

If each individual well was subject to the DCO regime even with a 1/4 of the US population over 25,000 wells would be needed.   The full cumulative impact of fracking on water can only be judged cumulatively at a field scale.  So what are we to have 25,000 individual applications, each with documents filling a skip, or several hundred for several hundred each?  One can imagine for example the uproar at an application for several hundred rigs in the Weald, England’s most promising field.  this is why operationally and politically fracking is a no go.  Large windfarms in upland areas well away from where most people live are far less toxic.

4 Million new Homes needed by 2031 Acording to Natfed Sponsored Research


I note their estimate of 340,000/annum till 20131 is very close to my own MOAN model estimate of 338,000/annum over the same period. Why the similarity, my method estimated how many houses would be needed if supply kept up with demand for household formation in ‘normal times’ the Heriot Watt Research claculated how many people were inadequately housed.  Of course the two figures are and should be broadly the same.

As many as four million  homes are needed to meet burgeoning demand, it was claimed, as new research reveals the “epic” scale of the housing crisis facing England.

The estimate, calculated for the National Housing Federation and the charity Crisis, takes a comprehensive view of how many people do not have a place to call home.

It counts people who are homeless, “boomerang” generation adults still living with their parents, couples who would otherwise have separated, and people in flatshares who would have moved out.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “This groundbreaking new research shows the epic scale of the housing crisis in England.

“The shortfall of homes can’t be met overnight – instead, we need an urgent effort from the Government to meet this need, before it publishes its social housing green paper in the summer.”

The research looked at Office for National Statistics (ONS) population figures and the English Housing Survey as well as other reports to arrive at the four million estimate.

The research, conducted by Heriot-Watt University, also estimates that to both tackle the backlog of homes needed and keep up with new demand, the country needs to build 340,000 homes per year until 2031.

It said 145,000 of these 340,000 homes should be affordable homes. Of the 145,000 affordable homes, 90,000 should be for social rent, 30,000 should be for intermediate affordable rent and 25,000 should be for shared ownership.

The news comes after HuffPost UK revealed former Housing Minister Sajid Javid surrendered to the Treasury a total of £292m allocated for desperately-needed affordable homes over the course of two years, despite demand rising. 

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “To truly get to grips with this crisis and ensure everyone has a safe and stable home, we must build the social and affordable housing we need to end homelessness once and for all.”

Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “This isn’t just a numbers game and we have to make sure we build the right homes, in the right places and that people can afford them.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Now is the time to redesign our housing market so that it works for everyone – no matter who they are or where they come from.”

And Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Government can turn things around but only by building many more of the high quality, genuinely affordable homes this country is crying out for.”

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said the Government must act.

He said: “This research confirms the immense scale of the housing crisis that Britain faces and just how far short this Government is falling.

“It also reinforces Labour’s case for a big new affordable housebuilding programme, with a million new genuinely affordable homes over ten years, starting from the current record low level under the Tories.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said Theresa May was investing.

He said: “This Government is committed to building a housing market fit for the future, with the homes our communities need.

“We have a comprehensive plan to deliver this, including reforming planning rules and investing £9 billion in affordable homes.

“We are also allowing councils to borrow more and providing them with increased certainty over rents so they can build more homes.”

Lichfields Research – Neighbourhood Plans not Focussing on Housing


Shows 60% of Neighbourhood Plans make no allocations for housing.  Raise housing numbers by 3% compared to local plans.

Our analysis of 330 ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans shows that local
communities are using them to focus on broader local issues – such
as green spaces and infrastructure provision – rather than housing;
very few plans contain a housing target and/or site allocations.
Of those that do make provisions for housing, allocations are
rarely ‘new’, often benefiting from an existing allocation or extant
permission. We conclude this in part is due to the slow Local Plan
process, with a majority of plans coming forward ahead of their
respective Local Plans, and thus within a ‘strategic policy vacuum’.