Mayor rips up rules to double the rate of housebuilding in London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has ripped up existing planning rules and is calling on housebuilders to develop sites at higher housing densities to double the rate of housebuilding in the capital.

In a major housing policy in his new draft London Plan – launched today (29 November) at Barking Riverside – the Mayor has removed ‘outdated’ constraints and rigid density guidelines to boost the number of homes given planning permission.

Sadiq has thrown out the previous Mayor’s policy, which proved complicated and set meaningless maximum rules for the number of homes on developments, in favour of boosting the number of well-designed homes sites can deliver.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “With London’s population expected to increase by 70,000 every year, reaching 10.8 million in 2041, it’s vital we 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.”

In his new draft London Plan, the capital’s strategic planning bible, the Mayor has set out how he will ask housebuilders to maximise the use of valuable land in the city – and that means developing sites with more homes on them than existing developments nearby that would have had to follow previous guidelines.

Sadiq believes increased numbers of homes should be built on sites near town centres or good public transport, reducing the need for car parking spaces within developments. The Mayor’s Plan says proposed development on sites that do not clearly maximise housing density should be refused.

He believes rather that councils – working with developers and housing associations – should take a case-by-case approach to each site to determine its capacity based on surrounding infrastructure.

The new policy also emphasises the importance of good design and will be applicable to buildings of all types, including low-rise, medium and high-rise. This new approach is supported by a far stronger policy on housing standards, including minimum space standards, which sets out how a home should be designed.

The Mayor is clear that, while he is encouraging homebuilders to make best use of land in the capital, he expects councils to refuse any applications that come forward with homes that do not meet his new standards.

New ambitious targets have been set for councils across the capital, as part of an overall London Plan figure of 65,000 homes a year – roughly double the current rate of homebuilding.

Sadiq believes there is capacity for 24,500 homes a year on London’s small sites – typically those between one and 25 homes – and asks boroughs to approve applications for small developments unless they do not meet his strict design standards.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders said, “Making better use of the many existing small sites that are scattered over the capital is essential if we are to build the number of new homes Londoners need. The London Plan’s moves to favour appropriate residential development on small sites is therefore a welcome initiative. It will also boost and strengthen the capacity of small and medium-sized house builders to build more new homes.

“FMB research has consistently shown that a lack of available and viable land is the main factor constraining the ability of small builders to deliver more homes. Indeed, over half of SME house builders believe that the number of small site opportunities is, if anything, decreasing. The London Plan goes further to address this issue than the proposed changes to national policy laid out in the Government’s Housing White Paper. In order to reach the 66,000 new homes London needs to build each year, this renewed emphasis on small sites is vital.”

The Mayor is also using his London Plan to provide greater protections for industrial land while also looking at solutions such as stacking up distribution sheds or encouraging development of industrial workspaces side by side with new homes to knit industry back into the fabric of the city.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group, London First, said, “By being smart about how and where we build, making better use of land and setting targets that councils can and must hit, the Mayor will help open a door for the countless people priced out of a place to call home.”

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