James Murray and WAN Task Force react to the London Plan

Affordable housing and densification of the suburbs are key elements in the UK government’s strategy to solve London’s housing crisis

by Nick Myall 05 December 2017


In the UK government’s new London Plan the London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the city’s needs to build 66,000 new homes a year with 65% of these homes being affordable. The plan proposes to build 25,000 homes a year on small plots, including gardens and end-of-terrace plots, to help absorb this dramatic increase in population. Densification will clearly be necessary if the city is to overcome it’s housing crisis, however many see this as an unwelcome land grab that will amount to the urbanisation of the suburbs. 

Mr Khan has radically reworked the planning rules in an effort to encourage homebuilders to develop sites at higher densities. For the first time, town halls will be given a numerical target for how many homes to build on small sites every year, ranging from 488 in Kensington & Chelsea to 3,850 in Newham.

Referring to the proposals to build on the city’s small plots on BB4’s Today programme last Saturday (2.12.17) James Murray London deputy mayor of housing said: “We will insist that the same amount of green space is reproduced in the same development or outside. We want to go from low density development to high density.”

Also commenting on the London Plan, Grant Shapps, Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield said: “The London Plan has some good ideas. The problem with the plan is thinking you can somehow reproduce that green space somewhere else. The plan looks like an attempt to urbanise the suburbs. It’s fair to say that we have to densify up and down. This can be done above buildings and below in basements. Also Transport for London land, land at stations and car parks can be used. The problem with the London Plan is it gives the green light to garden grabbing.”

Challenging Grant Shapps view James Murray said, “If Grant doesn’t agree with our plan he is either saying build on the green belt or give up.” Grant Shapps countered this view by saying: “When you take away the green space you take away the lungs of the city. This plan will change the character of the city in the suburbs.”  Mr Murray concluded by saying: “The Plan is a practical response and we want to make sure there is no loss of green space overall.”

The WAN Urban Challenge 17 focused on the issues and solutions surrounding London’s housing crisis and members of the Urban Challenge 17 Task Force have also been responding to the London Plan. 

Ollie Spragley, Planning and Design Manager at Co-Living specialists the Collective said: “It is great to see that the GLA have released policy that reacts to more widespread housing options that will work for London’s diverse population. The inclusion of Large-Scale Shared Living (or Co-Living as we call it at The Collective!) helps keep standards high, while keeping the focus on facilities that boost community.”

Ülar Mark from modular housing specialists KODA went on to say: “The use of land owned by council and Government organizations (like TfL) will generate income for local authority landowners and reduce their spending on security and safety of the unused land. Interim use can be beneficial for both the users and the land owners. Radically speaking the unused plots could be taxed to encourage the dialogue between the landowners and possible users. The vacant plots in London could be used either for temporary housing or public functions (parks, playgrounds, markets), empowering the local community.

“Precision-manufactured homes can help produce high-quality living spaces with low costs, helping to create affordable housing. Factory built homes can also help overcome the shortage of skilled workers which is limiting new-build housing in the UK.”

Andrew Waugh from Waugh Thistleton Architects is concerned about the lack of real comment on the issues surrounding climate change within the London Plan: “For new buildings, over their lifetime, embodied carbon (ie from materials, transport, construction, repair etc) is the major source of carbon emissions. Reducing embodied emissions is cheaper (often cost neutral or better) than further reducing operational emissions.  Any definition of zero carbon that does not include embodied carbon is therefore completely inaccurate. If whole life carbon is not included within the London Plan it will be, on publication, out of date with respect to carbon emissions and their reduction.”

The draft London Plan will now be subject to public consultation and scrutiny by an independent panel, the Government and the London Assembly. It will include the Mayor’s pledge for 50 per cent of all new homes built on public land, and 35 per cent of those by private developers, to be genuinely affordable.

Coming soon: WAN Urban Challenge 18 

Nick Myall

News editor

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