Jonathan Bainbridge, Bidwells, discusses some of the planning challenges for London in 2019 as the capital
seeks to accommodate a growing city.
It didn’t take long for Sadiq Khan’s “London Is Open” mantra to be applied in full force in 2019. While Brexit has added significant complexity to the political landscape, as we move towards the campaigns in the lead-up to the May 2020 Mayoral elections, the turbulent political climate is likely to have significant impacts on planning decision making over the coming year.
In the lead-up to 2020, the examination of the new London Plan will dominate planning across the capital.
London has an identified need of 66,000 new homes each year (35% more than the current 42,000 homes each year). The Mayor thinks there is a sufficient supply of land for 65,000 of this to be provided, 55% of which is in outer London boroughs.
That leaves a shortfall of 10,000 homes over the next ten years, and that is before you consider the level of objection from the London planning authorities, many of which question the optimistic assumptions that are included within the Mayor’s supply figures.
The NPPF (2018) is extremely clear. It states that spatial development strategies (of which the London Plan is one) must set out a “strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated”.
It is clear from the questions that have arisen in the lead up to examination, that there is going to be extensive debate on this matter. The Mayor has always adopted the tenuous position that the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ does not apply to the London Plan as it is a strategic document, and not a ‘development plan’ or ‘development plan document’. Rather, the Mayor takes the view that the duty to ‘inform and consult’ applies. Even then, it applies only to London and not the surrounding boroughs upon which the capital has so much influence.
This is concerning. As local planning authorities in London take the position that strategic planning matters – such as the responsibility for planning for unmet housing need – are matters which can only be considered by the Mayor and the GLA. This, I would suggest, is a defendable position to take.
At the wider scale, London has a huge influence on the borough’s surrounding it and even those beyond. While London’s unmet need will only serve to add pressure on the Home Counties and wider south-eastern authorities, perhaps the Mayor has his eyes on alliances that are emerging in London’s hinterland as an opportunity for offloading some of this unmet need – my mind turns to the Oxbridge Growth Corridor in particular. Food for thought.
One thing is for certain, whilst the Mayor is best placed to deal with such issues, planning for the real housing needs of London is likely to be left in a state of flux until such matters are resolved. Hopefully, 2019 will be the year.