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by GK Strategy 10th November, 2017
3 min read

As the Mayor prepares to launch the first draft of the London Plan, we provide our thoughts on what to look out for…

To the property world, the biggest announcements for housebuilding and developments will not be in the Chancellor’s Budget on 22nd November. Despite the early rhetoric of this being a Budget focused on housebuilding, support for first time buyers and various regulatory changes to free up land, focus will be elsewhere. Besides, we hear this package of recycled announcements every year and the housing crisis lives on.

Focus will more likely be on City Hall and the Mayor of London when the first draft of the London Plan is published at the end of the month. To those new to Mayoral set pieces, the London Plan sets out the economic, environmental, transport and social framework for development in the capital. City Hall uses the Plan to present its strategy for major housebuilding projects and includes rules that London boroughs must adhere to when formulating their local development strategies.

The Mayor of London has already shown his early thinking through Supplementary Planning Guidance and various “calling in” of developments that fall short of his desired affordable housing levels. The Mayor will introduce measures in the Plan that seek to boost affordable home construction – no surprises here. What is a change in direction from Boris Johnson’s time in City Hall is the focus on building communities where people can live and work – and the recognition in City Hall that housing cannot come at the expense of everything else. Supporting developers in political engagement, the GK Strategy Intelligent Planning team has noticed a change in tone amongst officials and politicians in London that employment land is as valuable as residential developments, and we have witnessed a move towards making the two work together through mixed-use developments. We expect to see measures to encourage such models in the Plan.

We may also expect to see more interventionist protections for essential services in the capital. There was a time when petrol stations were given official planning protections in certain London boroughs. I would not be surprised to see the London Plan calling for certain industrial classed uses given more protections, or at least there being a requirement for more scrutiny when employment land is demolished in favour of a block of flats. This suggests a more nuanced approach to housebuilding in the capital, and a realisation that the race to build flats in attractive areas has driven essential services out of central London. Could we see for example a “zone 1” donut where any employment land in the city centre cannot be redeveloped? Perhaps.

Whilst we will continue to speculate ahead of the launch of the Plan, what is clear is that City Hall take Sadiq Khan’s mantra seriously – “A City for All Londoners”. That means creating places where people can both live and work, and that means changing policies passed by the previous Mayor who was known to be much more at ease with developers cracking on. The launch at the end of the month is only the beginning of the process of reversing policy, but it is important. The Mayor will be asking developers and businesses for their views, and I would urge those with an interest in this environment to put forward submissions to get your voice heard.

GK are experienced in writing planning policy submissions to City Hall – please do get in touch to discuss matt@gkstrategy.com

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