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High-density housing targeted by 'unsurprising' draft London Plan

London developers would be able to build more homes at strategic sites, including transport hubs and town centres, under plans put forward by the mayor of London.04 Dec 2017

A new draft London Plan does away with existing rules setting a maximum number of homes at developments, and instead proposes a "case by case approach" to determine capacity at each site, based on surrounding infrastructure. It proposes refusing planning permission for developments that do not clearly maximise housing density.

The draft plan sets ambitious housebuilding targets for councils across London as part of an overall target of 65,000 homes a year, roughly doubling the current rate. This broad target incorporates a planned 24,500 homes a year on small sites, of between one and 25 homes, also broken down by borough. The plan incorporates the 50% "genuinely affordable" housing target set previously by the mayor, which would be delivered through planning, investment and building on public land.

The population of London is expected to increase by 70,000 each year to reach 10.8 million in 2041, according to Khan. He said that it was "vital" for the city to "properly plan for growth with new affordable homes in every area of the capital".

"I am using all of the powers at my disposal in my first draft London Plan to tackle the housing crisis head on – removing ineffective constraints on homebuilders so that we can make the most of precious land in the capital to build more homes in areas with the best transport links," he said.

The London Plan, once adopted, will act as the statutory framework within which London's local planning authorities must make their decisions. It is now subject to a three-month public consultation period, which closes on 2 March.

Planning law expert Reza Newton of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the draft plan contained "few surprises", as it was consistent with Khan's public statements on housing as well as the affordable housing and viability supplemental planning guidance of August 2017.

"The promotion of higher housing densities around transport hubs and in town centres is particularly sensible and welcome," he said. "The revised housing targets for the London boroughs are ambitious, particularly with their focus on small site provision of around 24,500 per annum. The difficulties and economics of delivering on small sites may mean this is not achievable."

"Overall, the plan is more prescriptive than the current London Plan, appearing to go beyond its role as an overarching strategic planning document. It will be interesting to see how the London boroughs respond to the consultation, with the potential for there also to be frequent conflict between borough planning policies and the plan if it is adopted in its current form," he said.

Other notable new policies contained in the draft plan include those promoting the provision of affordable workspace, protection for the green belt, support for the night-time economy and protection for London's pubs. London's boroughs are already beginning to secure the provision of affordable workspace as part of planning obligations, Newton said.

Although strict on making the best use of available London land, the draft plan also emphasises the importance of good design and housing standards for planned developments. Councils will be expected to refuse applications for homes that do not meet new minimum space, design and fire safety standards, according to the plan.

The draft plan also incorporates greater protections for industrial land, and policies to encourage the development of new workspaces side by side with new homes. It sets out plans for new "growth corridors", in which planned new developments such as Crossrail 2, the Thames Estuary and the Bakerloo line extension will support the development of new jobs and homes; and incorporates stronger protections for existing pubs and support for new pubs.

The plan allows for the construction of tall buildings "in the right places", where these are built to high design and safety standards. It also incorporates support for more bike parking and public transport links, while restricting traditional car parking spaces by new homes and office blocks.