London Plan has arrived

2 months before the Mayoral election...

After years of drafting, examination by the Planning Inspectorate and a year of negotiations with the Secretary of State, the Mayor of London has finally adopted the new London Plan 2021 March 2nd (2021). It is worth noting, the final adoption is only two months ahead of the London Mayoral election to select the new London Mayor (delayed by one year). 

The New London Plan sets the Mayor’s strategic vision for the growth of London for the next 20-25 years. 

The main changes to the London Plan are summarised below:

Increased housing targets

"The Mayor recognises the importance of small sites and will encourage the delivery of 120,000 new homes on sites of less than 0.25ha."

The London Plan 2016 set a housing target of 42,000 new homes per annum, with housing targets for each individual borough. With the government’s pledge to deliver 300,000 new homes a year across England, the housing target for Greater London had to be increased.

The new housing target set out in the London Plan 2021 is 522,370 over the period 2019-2029, this represents a yearly target of over 52,000 new homes and a 24% increase from the London Plan 2016.

Something of note for small developers is the emphasis in the Plan that the housing target can only be met with the development of small sites. The Mayor recognises the importance of small sites and will encourage the delivery of 120,000 new homes on sites of less than 0.25ha.

One of the conflicts with the Secretary of State was Robert Jenrick’s expectation for higher housing delivery numbers within the Greater London are to achieve the government’s objectives. In Jenrick’s words:

“Notwithstanding the above you still have a very long way to go to meet London’s full housing need, something your plan clearly and starkly fails to achieve. Londoners deserve better and I will be seeking to work with those ambitious London Boroughs who want to deliver over and above the housing targets you have set them; something that would not have been possible without my earlier directions."

A new approach to density

Another notable change is the scrapping of the housing density matrix from the Plan. This is replaced by a design-led approach to density to allow for more flexibility to determine the appropriate density for a particular site.

Paragraph B of Policy D3 details that higher densities should be sought for sites well connected to jobs, services, amenities and infrastructure, by public transport, walking or cycling. A small increase in density is also encouraged for less accessible locations.

The promotion of higher densities across the capital responds to the government’s objective to create “more homes at gentle densities in and around town centres and high streets, on brownfield land and near existing infrastructure” as detailed in the Planning for the Future White Paper which is currently under consultation.

Green Belt Policy consistent with NPPF

Another major change in the London Plan is the relaxation of the policy for development in the Green Belt and Metropolitan open Land compared to the draft version of the London Plan.

The draft Policy G2 stated the Green Belt had to be protected from all inappropriate development, without any exception. Following requested changes by the Secretary of State, the wording of the policy has been amended for allow for the exceptions set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The new London Plan policy G2 introduces a degree of freedom that allows some development in “very special circumstances”. This brings the London Plan in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.

Relaxation of SILs for Outer London boroughs

Outer London boroughs are constrained by Green Belt land which limits their ability to release land for housing development, may struggle to meet their increase housing targets. 

In order to give these boroughs some flexibility, the subtext of Policy E4 was amended to allow for the release of industrial land to accommodate the boroughs housing needs:

“In exceptional circumstances when allocating land, boroughs considering the release of Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land to accommodate housing need, may consider the reallocation of industrial land, even where such land is in active employment uses”

Lower threshold for Tall buildings

The threshold for Policy D9 “Tall Buildings” has been lowered from 25m to 18m (or 6 storeys). This means more potential buildings would be subject to the policy, giving London Boroughs more control over where tall should be built.

This matches the SoS objective to cluster tall buildings in central London, “where there are existing clusters”, and preserve the lower densities and suburban character of Outer London.

New parking standards for Outer London

The new maximum parking standards for residential development will provide more flexibility to outer London boroughs. While the London Plan promotes car free development inn central locations and are areas with good access to public transports, the new standards set out in Table 10.3 will give outer London Council’s the possibility to raise those maximum standards in areas with low PTAL ratings. This objective is to facilitate the create of family sized units (3 bedroom +) by providing on-site car parking for the future occupiers.

These changes will give London boroughs more flexibility to and help them meet their housing targets. They will also provide more flexibility to developer who are looking to gain planning permission for residential developments, particularly in Outer London boroughs. 

If you do have a potential site you are looking to develop to provide new homes and are not sure of the planning considerations, please give WEA Planning a call or send us an email/contact form to discuss your project. 

The new London Plan can be found here. 

Article prepared by Thomas Tinel AssocRTPI


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