Sadiq Khan climbs down on London Plan housing targets

Sadiq Khan climbs down on London Plan housing targets

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has conceded a significant reduction in his new homes target from 65,000 to 52,000 a year, in line with recommendations from planning inspectors reviewing City Hall’s draft new London Plan. 

The inspectors’ report, published in October after some 12 weeks of public hearings, specifically rejected Khan’s proposals for almost 250,000 new homes on small sites, predominantly in Outer London, over the next 10 years. 

The City Hall climbdown, revealed in Khan’s response to the inspectors, published this week alongside his final “intend to publish” version of his plan, sees overall targets reduced from 650,00 homes by 2029 to 520,000, and the small sites target cut from 245,730 new homes to 119,250, with significant reductions across Outer London.

Barnet’s target is down from 12,040 to 4,340, Croydon’s from 15,110 to 6,410, Bromley’s to 3,790 from 10,290 and Newham’s to 3,800 from 9,500. Full figures at Appendix B of the inspectors’ report here.

And it leaves the housing targets in the Plan falling some way short of meeting the capital’s housing need over the coming decade identified in City Hall evidence produced to support the draft plan, though it still representing a major hike in housebuilding compared to Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson’s 42,000 a year target.

The London Plan is effectively the development blueprint for the capital, setting out policies which must be taken into account when planning decisions are made at borough level. 

But its plans for small sites – earmarking Outer London particularly for a 250 per cent increase in housebuilding – would require a “massive” uplift in delivery, which was “highly unlikely to occur, based on the available evidence,” the inspectors found. Accepting it would be “setting the Plan up to fail”.

The revised Plan, now with the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government for approval, formally removes a presumption in favour of intensification around transport hubs and town centres in Outer London, while recasting its small site targets as “minimums”, representing “a small amount of the potential for intensification in existing residential areas” and urging boroughs to be ambitious in exploiting that potential.

In a covering letter to the secretary of state, Khan reiterates his commitment to new homes, and calls on the government for support.

“I want to make it clear that I am absolutely committed to delivering more of the homes that Londoners need, and this will include making much greater use of small sites across the capital as well as bringing new players into the market,” he writes. “The revised housing target remains ambitious and represents a step-change from that set out in the current London Plan, so it is in all our interests to get the new Plan adopted as soon as possible. I look forward to the Government supporting that ambition with the investment in affordable housing and infrastructure that is needed.”

While accepting the cut to his housing targets, Khan has rejected the inspectors’ call for a full London-wide review of the Green Belt, reiterating his opposition to encroachment into the safeguarded zone, which currently covers 22 per cent of London’s land area.

The revised plan nevertheless concedes that it “does not meet all of London’s identified development needs” and proposes that a future Plan should explore options for meeting those needs “in London and beyond, in collaboration with “local and strategic authorities and partners”.

Under the statutory process for approving the Plan, the secretary of state will now consider Khan’s “intend to publish” version, with the option to impose directions on City Hall for further amendments – suggesting scope for further wrangling. Ministers have previously suggested that even Khan’s original targets could underestimate housing need in the capital.

The final Plan also has to be approved by the London Assembly before coming into effect.

Photograph: New homes on Clapton Common by Omar Jan.

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