London Mayor Sadiq Khan looks set to reject planning inspectors’ proposed amendments to his draft London Plan, potentially putting City Hall on a collision course with Whitehall.
Last month the inspectors called on Khan to revise his proposed 66,000 new homes a year target down to 52,000, and urged him to rethink his blanket ban on development in the Green Belt.
The Mayor’s plans for boosting development particularly on small sites across the capital would require a “massive” uplift in delivery, which was “highly unlikely to occur,” the inspectors found.
But speaking to On London at yesterday’s Centre for London annual conference, the Mayor defended his ambitious plans. “Our analysis of the need for housing in London is correct,” he said. “And we can deliver those homes within London’s boundaries with no development on the Green Belt.”
The inspectors had failed to acknowledge the role small building firms and cooperative builders could play in getting homes built, he said. “The big boy developers dominate large-scale construction and that squeezes out small builders. But small sites encourage small builders.”
With the government suggesting that even Khan’s targets – up from Mayor Johnson’s of 42,000 a year – could underestimate housing need in the capital, the inspectors should be focusing on supporting City Hall in getting houses built, he suggested. “Tell us where we can build them,” he said.
The London Plan is effectively the development blueprint for the capital, setting out policies which must be taken into account when planning decisions are taken at borough level.
After some two years of consultation and 12 weeks of public hearings, culminating in the inspectors’ report, Khan must now submit his final proposals to Whitehall. The Mayor can ignore the inspectors’ recommendations but must set out his reasons for not accepting them, with the secretary of state having the final say.
Speakers at the Centre for London conference came together to back the inspectors’ call for a review of the Green Belt, which currently covers 22 per cent of the capital’s land – a call echoed by the think tank itself.
“I fundamentally disagree with the Mayor. We shouldn’t start with a closed view that you can’t touch the Green Belt,” said Centre for London chair and former British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace, who is also a member of the Mayor’s Homes For Londoners board and chair of his Old Oak & Park Royal development corporation.
Property strategist Adam Challis from JLL described the Green Belt as an “artificial construct which should not define the city today”, and Southwark Council leader and London Councils chair Peter John called for a “more honest” debate about housing supply in general: “I don’t think in all honesty that London can solve London’s housing problem. We have to see this as a wider south east problem.”
Khan’s final “intend to publish” version of the draft Plan is expected to be submitted and published before the end of the year.
With further wrangling to come between City Hall and the government over housing targets, the conference heard from Centre for London research director Richard Brown that the number of new homes actually coming forward was falling, with just 13,800 started in London in the year to June 2019, 35 per cent down on the year to July 2016. “Just as house prices seem to be levelling off, supply is slowing to a crawl,” he said.
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