Last week’s draft plan was a bold statement, but could plans for housing come unstuck with poor viability or unwilling landowners?
Sadiq Khan has produced a bold Draft London Plan, in keeping with the promises of his mayoral election campaign. Throughout the Plan, the Mayor of London has shown he isn’t afraid to rustle a few feathers and that he intends to improve the capital primarily through tackling the housing crisis, reducing pollution and developing public transport infrastructure.
The Plan will encourage housing development to be focused on areas with good public transportation links, creating more densely populated areas around existing transport hubs, including in outer London boroughs. The Plan also places a priority on small sites, utilising Brownfield Registers and permission in principle to maximise delivery. This greater certainty means that small and medium-sized housebuilders could benefit, alongside larger construction firms.
In addition to housing delivery volumes, Mr Khan has also placed an emphasis on boosting the proportion of affordable homes available in the capital. Almost all types of housing that could be considered as residential have been looked at in a bid to deliver more affordable housing. As a consequence, measures relating to housing for the elderly, shared living, and small sites have all been reformed to boost the number of affordable homes. Another example of this is with purpose-built student accommodation, where 35% of bedrooms are set to be made affordable. However, whilst the Mayor appears to have understood that the supply and affordability of housing are major issues, his objectives could come unstuck if sites face delays due to poor viability or unwilling landowners.
The issue of air quality is also marked as a significant Mayoral priority and is tied closely to the issue of house building, especially around existing transport hubs. The Plan proposes that large-scale developments be ‘air quality positive’, but gives scant detail on how this could be achieved. Urban planners and architects will therefore play an important role in interpreting these guidelines and achieving better air quality outcomes.
The push for better air quality will also see the emergence of ‘car-free’ neighbourhoods, enabled by enhanced public transport networks and dense population centres. In addition, this could also provide further opportunities to increase housing density, as considerations such as the need for parking spaces become lesser priorities.
The Plan’s transportation policy is equally bold. It states that by 2041, 80% of all trips in London should be made by foot, bicycle or public transport. This objective fits with Mr Khan’s holistic vision for London; a more compact, affordable and environmentally-friendly city where residents make full use of the public services available. It will certainly be interesting to witness how successful the Plan is in achieving these noble aims.