In February 2008 a consolidated London Plan was published reflecting the recommendations of the Early Alterations and Further Alterations public examinations held since 2004.
Among the principal issues for house building in the capital are:
a target for 50% affordable homes (policy 3A.9);
regard for viability so that volume housing delivery is not jeopardised (policy 3A.10);
thresholds lowered in so that all developments of ten units and over must now contribute to affordable housing provision (policy 3A.11);
considerable additional emphasis on climate change. The Plan requires all residential developments to meet at least 20% of their energy needs through renewable sources (the Merton rule); and
a strong drive for housing developments to provide decentralised energy, either by connecting up to existing plant or providing new plant on housing schemes.
The London Plan also includes a requirement for all new homes to be built to the Lifetime Homes standard but since this is not in strict compliance with national policy, there is considerable latitude on the ground in the application of this policy.
What the future holds
Following the election in May of Boris Johnson as London Mayor, it is expected that the London Plan will change again to reflect the Conservative party’s evolving policies on planning and housebuilding for the UK. The Mayor has already announced his intention to relax the 50% affordable housing target and to move away from the more centralised command model favoured by Ken Livingstone, instead granting more discretion to the London boroughs to set their own targets.
The Mayor has also announced his intention to protect the Green Belt, back gardens, heritage, resist tall buildings outside of the City and Canary Wharf and give a higher priority to design aesthetics. The Mayor’s thoughts on the future of development in the capital is set out in his briefing document entitled Planning for a Better London.
The new policies are likely to have serious implications for land supply and housing delivery in the capital. So, while the relaxation of the 50% affordable housing target may be welcomed, this could be offset by the emergence of a generally more inhospitable climate to housing as the outer boroughs assert their discretion to resist centrally defined targets.
Contact James Stevens on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss any aspect of London housing policy further.