The government has not made contact with Sadiq Khan since a July announcement by Rishi Sunak that he was launching an immediate review of City Hall’s London Plan to boost housebuilding in the capital, the London Assembly has heard.
Speaking on 27 July, the Prime Minister said the Mayor had “failed to deliver the homes London needs” and that he was therefore “stepping in”, with an autumn deadline for Khan to agree changes to the plan, the development blueprint for the city, to get more new homes underway or risk ministerial intervention.
Levelling up secretary Michael Gove had said in an earlier speech he would be working with the Mayor to “ensure we have a London Plan…worthy of the task”, with a focus on “turbocharging” development in the inner city. “I reserve the right to step in to reshape the London Plan if necessary,” he said.
But, some seven weeks later, no minister or official has actually been in touch with him about the proposals, Khan said at today’s Mayor’s Question Time session. “I’ve not received any formal notification, correspondence or direction from the government in relation to these comments,” he said.
The Mayor, who had already described the PM’s intervention as “pathetic gesture politics”, added that it was based on “unfounded” claims of City Hall under-performance and “audacious” given that the government had recently dropped its own target of 300,000 new homes a year being built.
City Hall had exceeded its own Whitehall-agreed target of starting 116,000 affordable homes between 2016 and 2023, with a record 25,000 homes started in 2022/23 alone, more council homes than at any time since the 1970s, and more homes of all types than at any time since the 1930s. And new planning policies had seen overall affordable percentages on larger housing schemes up from 24 per cent in 2016 to 45 per cent last year, Khan added.
Housebuilding in the city was nevertheless falling short of the London Plan’s 55,000 new homes a year target overall, Khan conceded, due to a combination of interest rate and building costs inflation, as well as inadequate levels of government funding for affordable homes and policy uncertainty.
Government delays on implementing new fire safety rules for second staircases in blocks of flats taller than 18 metres, or six stories, for example, were holding up delivery of some 34,000 new homes on major developments across the capital, according to new City Hall data, he said.
The Mayor also revealed that cost pressures have taken their toll on the government’s own funding plans for affordable housing, including the £4 billion allocated to City Hall for new homes between 2021 and 2026.
In February this year the government revised its overall targets down from 180,000 new affordable homes over that period to a maximum of 165,000, citing “new economic challenges to delivery”, with London’s target consequently reduced from 35,000 homes to a new total of some 27,000.
Held up by the resulting renegotiations with housebuilders required and by the need for further Whitehall sign-off, the City Hall programme was now effectively running from 2023 to 2026 rather than the original five-year period, Khan said.
Last month the Mayor warned that housebuilding in London was in danger of “grinding to a halt” due to cost pressures, and called for an emergency funding boost of some £2 billion to get the 2021-2026 affordable homes programme back on track.