It’s encouraging that the Mayor has unshackled development from outdated density limits which have unnecessarily curtailed the growth of Greater London, but can we do more?
Muscular moves to speed the process of bringing housing to the market are needed. The current planning process is a handbrake to solving the housing supply crisis. After all, another two decades of tinkering with existing planning legislation will not quench London’s housing supply drought. What we need is focused attention by an independent Development Authority empowered to deliver set housing targets on the GLA’s brownfield land, opportunity sites and intensification areas.
We’ve done it before; think of the Olympic Development Authority which achieved (what we thought at its inception was) the unachievable. We are in the hour where decisive action needs to rein, unencumbered by local politics. We have a once in a generation chance to ride upon the wave of social consciousness that the Mayor has mustered and solve an embarrassing housing supply problem which is drowning in an ineffectual planning system.
We must protect the things that make London great. The green belt is one of those essential elements that makes London liveable. The Mayor is right to protect it. Indeed, the green belt was an amenity that encouraged me to become a Londoner a decade ago. To this day, the green belt looms large in my love of London. I have argued for many years that there is enough land to house everyone in Greater London without sacrificing the green belt. Research we recently commissioned and presented to the CTBUH also proves our thesis. That is, London’s 2050 population target can be accommodated exclusively by developing GLA identified sites outside the green belt - all at densities not much greater than Notting Hill.
It’s encouraging that the Mayor has unshackled development from outdated density limits which have unnecessarily curtailed the growth of Greater London. This blunt instrument of the past failed to acknowledge that cities are the most sustainable construct we have, and that many of the most liveable cities in the world are our most dense. As we wrestle to improve our Victorian rail infrastructure, it is also time that we elevate urban and suburban density to reduce travel distances and compress commute times. Eliminating density caps is the first step – rewarding an increase in density for good design, by linking the two, is the next logical leap. It’s time to move beyond a prohibitive planning system.
I agree that the Mayor is right to raise the affordable housing targets; as long as it is a level playing field for all developers. But the plan should go further and remember the ‘forgotten middle’ – those not eligible for ‘affordable housing’ and who can’t afford to buy a home. This could be achieved by being more proactive in incentivising Build-to-Rent schemes.