Following a lengthy process (starting in December 2017), and despite criticism on still having 'a very long way to go to meet London’s full housing need', the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, published the new London Plan on 2 March.
New London Plan Overview
The new London Plan sets out the Mayor's plans for 'Good Growth'. The Mayor sees this as the way to 're-balance development in London towards more genuinely affordable homes for working Londoners to buy and rent' and building 'thousands of genuinely affordable homes at the same time as creating a more inclusive, greener and safer city that supports the health and wellbeing of all Londoners'.
All policies within the London Plan have been informed by the following 'Good Growth objectives':
- GG1 Building strong and inclusive communities
- GG2 Making the best use of land
- GG3 Creating a healthy city
- GG4 Delivering the homes Londoners need
- GG5 Growing a good economy
- GG6 Increasing efficiency and resilience.
However, the Mayor clarifies that Good Growth is not about supporting growth at any cost. The London Plan refers several times to ensuring that development is the most appropriate for the site and meets an identified need.
The London Plan also contains policies dedicated to good (D4) and inclusive (D5) design, as well as optimising site capacity through a design-led approach (D3).
The London Plan has increased housing targets by 23 percent from the previous London Plan targets. However, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government still believes the new London Plan 'starkly fails to achieve' London's full housing need, and stated in his letter to the Mayor issued on 29 January 2021 that he will be working with the ambitious London Boroughs who want to deliver over and above the housing targets the Mayor has set. Claiming that this is 'something that would not have been possible' without his earlier direction.
The direction referred to resulted in the text in bold below being added to paragraph 0.021 of the London Plan, specifically allowing for housing over and above target levels to be delivered where possible. However, this is arguably something that would have still been possible, without the additional text.
"The Plan provides an appropriate spatial strategy that plans for London’s growth in a sustainable way. The housing targets set out for each London Borough are the basis for planning for housing in London. Therefore, boroughs do not need to revisit these figures as part of their Local Plan development, unless they have additional evidence that suggests they can achieve delivery of housing above these figures whilst remaining in line with the strategic policies established in this Plan."
The Secretary of State has also assisted Boroughs in delivering housing, by allowing more flexibility for previous protected industrial employment land to be re-allocated for housing. He recommended the removal of the wording 'The Planning Framework should ensure that there is no net loss of industrial floorspace capacity' from several places in the London Plan, in addition to making the amendments to policy E4 (Land for industry) shown below.
"Policy E4 - 6.4.8 Where industrial land vacancy rates are currently above the London average, Boroughs are encouraged to assess whether the release of industrial land for alternative uses is more appropriate if demand cannot support industrial uses in these locations. In exceptional circumstances when allocating land, boroughs considering the release of Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land to accommodate housing need, may consider the reallocation of industrial land, even where such land is in active employment uses. Where possible, a substitution approach to alternative locations with higher demand for industrial uses is encouraged."
Only time will tell if the London Plan will achieve the housing targets it sets out and, although the Secretary of State does not think it has pushed London Boroughs hard enough to deliver much needed housing, the increased clarity that comes from the formal publication of the London Plan, along with its higher housing delivery targets and support for 'Good Growth', is certainly welcome.