The review recommends granting presumption in favour of planning permission for brownfield sites

Sadiq Khan’s London Plan has been criticised for frustrating rather than facilitating the delivery of new homes on brownfield sites in Michael Gove’s review of the development strategy.

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The review said the complexity of policies in the London Plan impedes the delivery of new homes on brownfield sites and creates challenges in terms of scheme viability

Gove’s review states that simplifying the London Plan’s policies on brownfield could increase capacity for the delivery of homes by almost 11%, equivalent to around 4,000 additional homes per year.

Four years into the mayor’s 10-year target to build 52,300 homes per year, the report states that there has been an undersupply of 60,000 homes.

To address the backlog, the rate of delivery would need to increase to more than 62,300 homes a year. London currently delivers an average of 38,000 new homes per year.

The proposed solution set out in the report is to speed up planning determinations by introducing one overarching brownfield policy and giving presumption in favour of planning permission for brownfield sites.

According to the document, a proposal to construct new homes on “a relatively straightforward case of a brownfield site”, free from special protections (e.g. heritage restrictions) would require the applicant to consult a minimum of 45 policies.

“There is just so much to navigate and negotiate that it should come as no surprise that wending ones way through the application process is expensive and time-consuming, particularly for SMEs who deliver the majority of London’s homes,” the report states.

The review was launched by the communities secretary in his speech announcing the new NPPF on 19 December, and was led by Christopher Katkowski KC, a specialist planning barrister, with input from James Jamieson, a Conservative councillor at Central Bedfordshire Council, architect Paul Monaghan at AHMM and Dr Wei Yang, a town planner. Lichfields supported the expert panel to conduct the review.

The government also announced today that it plans to apply the review’s idea of a presumption in favour of brownfield development to 19 other highly populated towns and cities.

The release of the findings of Gove’s review is a continuation of the ongoing clash between the housing secretary and the mayor of London around how to boost housing delivery in the capital.

Khan has made calls to Gove for the government to immediately inject an additional £2.2bn in Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) grant into London to bring AHP 2021-26 targets back up to 35,000 affordable homes. 

This review is nothing more than a stunt from the government to distract from their abysmal record of failure.

GLA spokesperson.

In another letter to Gove in November, the mayor called for an injection of £470m in funding for brownfield development to help unlock 76,000 homes in London.

In his letter dated 18 December, Gove stated: “Under your leadership, the GLA is failing to provide affordable homes for those that need them most.”

The housing secretary also ruled out investing additional grant funding, stating: “In a city with such high land values, it is not right or fair to taxpayers and other parts of England for you to rely on more public subsidy to catalyse development in London when it is regulatory complexity that so often makes new building too difficult.”

In response to the review, a spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “This review is nothing more than a stunt from the government to distract from their abysmal record of failure.

>> Also read: Gove and Khan’s row over London’s housing delivery numbers explained

“The facts are clear – London under Sadiq Khan is outbuilding the rest of the country. Housing completions in the capital have hit the highest level since the 1930s, according to the government’s own data. London is also delivering twice the level of council homebuilding as the rest of the country combined, showing up Ministers’ dismal failure nationally.

“London’s record housing delivery is built almost entirely on unlocking brownfield sites – 99.8% of housing delivery is on brownfield land. Yet the government has repeatedly ignored industry calls for greater investment in brownfield development. At least 76,000 homes could have been unlocked or accelerated if there was longer-term investment from the Government in infrastructure and brownfield sites.”

Commenting on the review, DLA Piper Real Estate partner, Howard Bassford, said: “The government is clearly doing what governments of every stripe have known since the establishment of Lord Rogers of Riverside’s Urban Task Force as long ago as 1999.  In its report “Towards an Urban Renaissance”, Lord Rogers advocated 60% of new housing being built on brownfield land.”

Bassford added: ”What is needed now in order to drive these recommendations home is for the Treasury to double down on the clear message from planning, by giving tax break incentives to encourage brownfield land development.”