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Inspector backs London Plan changes, but remains "unconvinced" housing targets can be met within GLA boundaries

A planning inspector has recommended that draft further alterations to the Greater London Authority's (GLA's) strategic development plan for Greater London be adopted, despite expressing concerns that the strategy "will not deliver sufficient homes to meet objectively assessed need" in the capital.17 Dec 2014

In a report published this week (26-page / 296 KB PDF), inspector Anthony Thickett said that the London Plan as changed by the draft further alterations provided "an appropriate basis for the strategic planning of Greater London", provided that several additional changes were made. The changes included a commitment to carry out a review of the plan immediately after the adoption of the alterations next year, to explore options for meeting a potential shortfall of at least 6,600 homes per year (hpy) against London's identified need.

The inspector said he was satisfied with the evidence base and methodology used by the GLA in identifying a need for around 49,000 hpy over 20 years, and up to 62,000 hpy in the initial years of the plan in order to address historical failure to meet targets. However, Thickett noted that the draft further alterations only allocated targets totalling 42,389 hpy to the individual London boroughs.

Thickett expressed doubts that the resulting shortfall could be met by relying on co-operation between boroughs or by increasing housing densities. The inspector said that "it is not easy to see ... where London boroughs would find additional sources of supply" and warned that, in finding solutions to meeting the pressing need for housing, "care must be taken not to damage [London's] environment such that it becomes an unpleasant place to visit, live and work".

The inspector recommended that the alterations be adopted despite his reservations, noting that non adoption would "result in the retention of the existing housing targets" of 32,210 hpy, which he said were "woefully short of what is needed". Thickett said the mayor of London may need to explore the possibility of "engaging local authorities beyond the GLA's boundaries in discussions" to ensure that the capital's housing needs could be met.

In addition to committing to an immediate review of the London Plan, the inspector recommended that the draft further alterations be amended to remove references to London boroughs being required to carry out their own assessments of housing needs.

The inspector said that, although the National Planning Policy Framework required each local authority to identify its own housing needs, it was silent as to how plan making responsibilities should be divided in a two tier system such as London's. Thickett decided that it was the role of the London Plan, as the capital's spatial development strategy, "to determine the overall level of need for London and to guide the distribution of new housing to meet that need".

In the inspector's opinion, each borough would be required to "fine tune" the local need identified in the London Plan, to account for "the size and type of property and tenure", but there was no need "to duplicate the work done by the GLA and produce their own individual assessment of overall need".