The London Plan; The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London

The Mayor has published a draft for public consultation, about which he says “So this London Plan sets out a new way of doing things, something I am calling Good Growth.” If you have any comments the consultation period runs to 2 March 2018.

The report has quite a lot to say about housing and the use of brownfield sites.

Efficient Land Use

In a section titled “Making the best use of land” the report points out that “London’s population is set to grow from 8.9 million today to around 10.8 million by 2041… This rapid growth will bring many opportunities, but it will also lead to increasing and competing pressures on the use of space. To accommodate growth while protecting the Green Belt, and for this growth to happen in a way that improves the lives of existing and new Londoners, this Plan proposes more efficient uses of the city’s land.”

The report then develops the theme of more efficient land use:

“1.2.2 The key to achieving this will be taking a rounded approach to the way neighbourhoods operate… This will mean creating places of higher density in appropriate locations to get more out of limited land, encouraging a mix of land uses, and co-locating different uses to provide communities with a wider range of services and amenities.

1.2.3 The benefits of this approach are wide-ranging… High-density, mixed use places support the clustering effect of businesses known as ‘agglomeration’, maximising job opportunities… They are places where local amenities are within walking and cycling distance, and public transport options are available for longer trips, supporting good health, allowing strong communities to develop, and boosting the success of local businesses.

1.2.4 Making the best use of land means directing growth towards the most accessible and well-connected places, making the most efficient use of the existing and future public transport, walking and cycling networks…

1.2.5 All options for using the city’s land more effectively will need to be explored as London’s growth continues, including the redevelopment of brownfield sites and the intensification of existing places, including in outer London. New and enhanced transport links will play an important role in allowing this to happen, unlocking homes and jobs growth in new areas and ensuring that new developments are not planned around car use…

Policy GG2 Making the best use of land

To create high-density, mixed-use places that make the best use of land, those involved in planning and development must:

A Prioritise the development of Opportunity Areas, brownfield land, surplus public sector land, sites which are well-connected by existing or planned Tube and rail stations, sites within and on the edge of town centres, and small sites.

B Proactively explore the potential to intensify the use of land, including public land, to support additional homes and workspaces, promoting higher density development, particularly on sites that are well-connected by public transport, walking and cycling, applying a design–led approach.

C Understand what is valued about existing places and use this as a catalyst for growth and place-making, strengthening London’s distinct and varied character.

D Protect London’s open spaces, including the Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, designated nature conservation sites and local spaces, and promote the creation of new green infrastructure and urban greening.

E Plan for good local walking, cycling and public transport connections to support a strategic target of 80 per cent of all journeys using sustainable travel, enabling car-free lifestyles that allow an efficient use of land, as well as using new and enhanced public transport links to unlock growth.

F Maximise opportunities to use infrastructure assets for more than one purpose, to make the best use of land and support efficient maintenance…

Delivering the housing London needs

1.4.5 To meet the growing need, London must seek to deliver new homes through every available means. Reusing large brownfield sites will remain crucial, although vacant plots are now scarce, and the scale and complexity of large former industrial sites makes delivery slow. Small sites in a range of locations can be developed more quickly, and enable smaller builders to enter the market. Building more housing as part of the development of town centres will also be important, providing homes in well-connected places that will help to sustain local communities…

Increasing housing supply

Policy H1 urges that: boroughs should optimise the potential for housing delivery on all suitable and available brownfield sites through their Development Plans and planning decisions… Boroughs should proactively use brownfield registers and permission in principle to increase planning certainty for those wishing to build new homes…

Small Sites

Under Policy H2 Small sites the report says that: Boroughs should increase planning certainty on small sites by:

1) identifying and allocating appropriate small sites for residential development

2) listing these sites on their brownfield registers

3) granting permission in principle on specific sites or preparing local development orders…

Vacant building Credit

In section 4.9.1 there is a reminder that: “In 2014 the Government introduced a Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which applies to sites where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building. The VBC reduces the requirement for affordable housing contributions based on the amount of vacant floor space being brought back into use or redeveloped. This has significant implications for delivery of affordable housing in London where a high proportion of development is on brownfield land where there are existing buildings.”

Download the plan