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Draft new London Plan: Six key points arising from the Mayor’s response to the Panel Report
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has now issued the version of the London Plan he intends to publish to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State), for final approval. This latest amended version of the Plan includes a number of changes made following the release of the Panel of Inspectors’ Draft New London Plan Report, published in October, and is accompanied by a number of other documents, including a schedule setting out his response to the recommendations put forward by the Panel. Of the Panel’s 55 recommendations, the Mayor has decided to take forward 30 in full. Ten of the Panel’s recommendations have been accepted either in part or with amendment, whilst the Mayor has decided not to accept any element of 15 of the recommendations. Ahead of our upcoming Insight looking at what we should expect from the final London Plan, we’ve picked out six key points that stand out in the version of the Plan that the Mayor intends to publish. 1. Overall housing target reduced Whilst the Panel’s report found the 2017 SHMA provided a reliable starting point for the housing needs of London, in terms of how boroughs should address this need, it was sceptical over the heavily theoretical small site capacity modelling contained within the SHLAA.  As such, the Panel recommended the removal of policy H2A (see point 3 below) and the adjustment of the small site housing target, effectively forcing a 19.5% reduction in the Plan’s overall housing target (see Figure 1). Consequently, the Panel also recommended that the Mayor amend the total housing numbers for the capital in line with this figure. The Mayor has agreed to make this change and has now modified the Plan’s ten-year housing target for London from 649,350 homes down to 522,850. Interestingly, the Mayor has now also published a note setting out other planned interventions to increase housing delivery in London. The note states that the Plan should be read alongside the London Housing Strategy, which provides further detail on the wider measures the Mayor is bringing forward to deliver against the Plan’s housing policies and Good Growth objectives. 2. Position on Green Belt remains inconsistent with national policy Throughout the Plan’s Examination in Public, the Mayor defended his manifesto pledge of protecting London’s Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land, opting to accommodate all of London’s growth within the capital’s existing boundaries. With proposed amendments to the housing requirements (see our previous blog), the gap between housing need and housing target will be c. 14,000 dwellings per annum (dpa). To help address the ever-increasing backlog, the panel recommends a comprehensive Green Belt review. However, to avoid the Plan being delayed, the Panel recommended that the Mayor leads a “strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London as part of the next review of the London Plan” (PR35). The Panel suggested (para 596), the earliest date for a draft Plan would be at the end of 2022 (albeit noting the Mayor suggests summer 2023), concluding “…there would be little to be gained from requiring an immediate review until such time as a full review of London’s Green Belt has been undertaken as recommended to assess the potential for sustainable development there and whether and how the growth of London might be accommodated. Therefore we make no recommendation that an early or immediate review of the London Plan should be carried out” (para 599). The Mayor however, has declined to accept either of the recommendations, stating that a “commitment to review Green Belt in this plan potentially prejudges any future spatial strategy and risks undermining the objectives and delivery of this plan.” The Mayor considers that any review of London’s Green Belt must be as part of a comprehensive strategic appraisal of London’s spatial development options that focuses on the most sustainable outcomes.   3. Small sites policy watered down The delivery of new homes on small sites (equal to/smaller than 0.25ha) was a key component of the Mayor’s housing strategy, with the draft Plan setting out that 38% of the overall annual housing target for the Capital would be met through delivering on such sites. However, the Panel’s report concluded that the small-sites policy was neither effective or justified, stating they were “sceptical about the delivery”from small sites and that the policies objectives were not “realistically achievable”. The implications of this were examined in further detail in our recent blog. As such the Panel recommended that the Mayor should delete policy H2A regarding small housing developments and amend the small site ten-year housing targets from 245,730 to 119,250 over the plan period. The cut has a disproportionate impact on outer London where the SHLAA assumed most of the small site capacity could be found. While the reduction to London’s total small sites target is 51%, this corresponds to a 61% reduction to the small sites housing targets in outer London compared to a 26% reduction in inner London (see Figure 2). Whilst the Mayor still encourages development on small sites, he has agreed to take on the Panel’s recommendations and has amended the Plan to reflect this, although some of the supporting text has been moved to other parts of the Plan. For example, policy H2 now highlights different ways in which boroughs can encourage development of small sites, particularly through proactive use of design codes.   4. Mayor defends the Plan’s approach Industrial Land supply The Mayor has largely rejected the Panel’s recommendations in respect of Policy E4 land for industry, logistics and services to support London’s economic function, arguing that provision has been part of a balanced and robust approach to managing industrial land in London. Further to the rejection of a strategic Green Belt review for housing land, the Mayor has rejected the recommendations to identify industrial land as part of a Green Belt review and to note within the reasoned justification to policy E4 the potential for local level Green Belt reviews in order to provide additional industrial land. The Mayor considers that the draft Plan offers a positive and justified strategic framework to meet current and future demands for industrial uses. This includes a “no net loss approach” which ensures the retention of industrial floorspace. Additionally, it is argued that the Mayor does not want to encourage a major shift of industrial activity to the outskirts of London. Our recent blog discusses the likely future demand for industrial land in city centre locations due to the growth in logistics and e-fulfilment centres.   5. Good Growth: objectives rather than policies The Panel stated that presenting the Mayor’s vision for Good Growth as a set of policies introduced undue complexity in terms of how the Plan should inform decisions about the content of development plan documents and individual development proposals. The Mayor has decided to accept this recommendation. This will come as a relief to many in the development sector. Whilst the EiP revealed a broad level of support for the overarching principles of Good Growth, concerns were raised that the breadth and degree of ambiguity within the draft policies would have made them difficult to apply in planning terms, when determining whether development proposals are policy compliant.   6. Mayor’s position on airports broadly unchanged The Panel found that the Plan’s approach to aviation set out in Policy T8 were inconsistent with national policy, whilst also expressing concerns that parts A and B were essentially objectives rather than policies, and inappropriate in the context of the proper role of the Plan as a spatial development strategy. As such it recommended that Policy T8 and its reasoned justification should be deleted in their entirety. Despite this, the Mayor has declined to accept the Panel’s recommendation, reasoning that in the absence of T8, “there would be no London-wide strategic planning policy for other airports in London, or other schemes coming forward at Heathrow” . However, Policy T8 has been amended. Part A of the Policy, which supported the case for additional aviation capacity in the south east of England, has now been deleted. Perhaps of most significance for London in the short term, Part C (formerly part D) remains, with the Mayor continuing to oppose expansion at Heathrow Airport “unless it can be shown that no additional noise or air quality harm would result” .   What to expect next? Now that the Mayor has notified the Secretary of State of his intention to publish, the Secretary of State has up to six weeks to decide whether or not to direct amendments. The Greater London Authority Act 1999 states that this may happen where the Plan still fails to comply with national policy, or that the plan would be to the detriment of areas outside of London. As previously discussed, this latest version of the Plan continues to diverge from national policy in a number of key policy areas, so it seems highly unlikely that this will be the final version yet, especially given the Secretary of State’s previous warnings to the Mayor on this matter. If unsatisfied, the Secretary of State has powers to issue a holding direction which would stop the Plan from being adopted, unless the Mayor were to make the necessary amendments. Either way, if and when the Plan is finally adopted, it seems highly likely that the Government will expect the Mayor to review the new London Plan to reflect the 2019 National Planning Policy Framework without hesitation. There is a nod to this in a new paragraph added to this iteration of the draft Plan, perhaps with a view to discouraging the Secretary of State from insisting on changes now: “The Plan does not meet all of London’s identified development needs. Work will need to be undertaken to explore the potential options for meeting this need sustainably in London and beyond. This is a matter for a future Plan, and requires close collaboration with local and strategic authorities and partners. Clear commitment from the Government is essential to support the consideration of these options and the significant strategic infrastructure investment requirements associated with them”. For now at least, the Examination in Public webpage still states that the Mayor intends to publish the final London Plan in February or March 2020.   Mayor's letter to the Secretary of State, Notice of intention to publishIntend to Publish London Plan 2019Inspectors' Report and Panel Recommendations Click here to see our other blogs in this series Lichfields will publish further analysis on the draft New London Plan and its future direction in due course. Click here to subscribe for updates


Draft London Plan EiP: Design – fit for purpose?
Lichfields is currently monitoring the draft London Plan Examination in Public (EiP), which is scheduled to last until May 2019, and will report on relevant updates as part of a blog series. The sixth blog of the series focuses on the hearing sessions for draft policies D1-D3 and the Plan’s approach to delivering good and inclusive design, which took place on 5 March 2019. Whilst historically London has tended to eschew any comprehensive vision or design, with the Mayor hoping to deliver 65,000 new homes a year within the city’s existing boundaries, having a robust design framework in place will be critical to achieving that level of growth sustainably. However, in a city as large, complex and contradictory as London, setting city-wide policies which are effective, yet sensitive to local context is always going to be a challenge. The difficulties of this were laid bare during the EiP hearing session on delivering good design which specifically focused on policies D1-D3 [i] of the draft new London Plan. Well intentioned, though too detailed Perhaps unsurprisingly, most participants at the session felt that design would play a vital role in delivering sustainable growth and achieving broader social goals within London - although there was a wide range of views as to how effective the policies within the draft Plan would be in achieving this. The Home Builders Federation (HBF) considered Policy D1 overly wordy and difficult to navigate. The policies created little in the way of certainty as to what was expected of developers or how this would be assessed. Broadly speaking, these issues were echoed by London First, who agreed that the level of detail imparted was unnecessary. It was also held that the principles outlined in D1, which cover issues such as density, public space and accessibility, could hardly be considered London specific, and that they were more or less a reiteration of existing guidance published by (the now defunct) CABE and Design Council, already in widespread use. Defending these points, the Greater London Authority (GLA) noted that the design principles outlined in D1 were based on past research undertaken on behalf of the Mayor’s team [ii]. Whilst they could be interpreted as being broad, the GLA argued that they are a pragmatic response to the fact that not all local authorities have explicit design guidance in place – in their absence they can help guide decisions and provide greater clarity to developers.The GLA also maintained the view that Policy D2 did encourage local authorities to consult widely when collecting evidence to support local design documents. Interestingly, they also confirmed that the Mayor was in the process of producing supplementary guidance on housing design standards which would be published “in due course”. Are the policies genuinely inclusive? On inclusive design, a number of participants felt the way this was conceptualised in the draft Plan focused too heavily on physical impairments and disabilities. For example, a representative for the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group argued that far greater consideration should be given to how cognitive and sensory impairments are accounted for. Inconsistencies were also raised as to how inclusiveness is defined in policy D3 and within the glossary. The GLA took these comments on board and confirmed they would review these points.Others called for greater consideration of economic exclusion, alongside access to local services and amenities; it was also considered whether the social heritage of place should be given greater status; and more generally, whether the policies focused too heavily on the physical dimensions of urban design. There was some discussion on the use of planning conditions to ensure public access to the private realm, though the GLA felt that many of these other points were addressed in other sections of the Plan. The GLA also stated that whilst the draft Plan’s design policies did focus on the physical aspects of the built environment, these qualities have a very real impact on people’s individual experiences of the city, affecting our mobility, perceptions of safety and personal comfort and well-being. Scrutinising design scrutiny In terms of scrutiny, concerns were raised over design review policies at D2 F and G. Many felt the policies focused too heavily on schemes referable to the Mayor, whilst the thresholds associated with such schemes were thought as being relatively arbitrary from a design perspective. A representative for the City of London Corporation stated that most new developments in the City are taller than the 30m threshold, as a result they have extensive in-house experience and resources. It was felt onerous to require additional review from external independent experts, especially given that they already consult widely with other design and heritage bodies when scrutinising taller schemes. However, this point was addressed by the GLA in its written statement (and subsequent minor suggested amendment to Policy D2 F), which clarified that ‘design review does not need to be undertaken by external panels; if boroughs follow the processes set out in the Policies, this can be done in-house’. Countering this, the Design Council felt that many schemes below the threshold would benefit from design review; although the reviews focused too heavily on individual buildings in isolation, with not enough attention paid to the cumulative impact that multiple new developments can have on an area. Beyond this, it was noted that the policies should be more explicit as to when a local authority should request development proposals to undergo an independent review. Also, wider concerns raised over the lack of consistency, as well as the quality of feedback and advice given at design review, with calls for greater standardisation across the board. A need for more (local) design guidance Whilst design reviews are often a useful exercise, it is worth noting that less than 1% of schemes in London are subject to the process [iii]. The design of most schemes will be judged by planners against the policies set out in the development plan. relevant guidance and any other material considerations. Many participants recognised this and felt that design quality was best secured through the production of clear local guidance, either in masterplans or design codes. Extract from the Mayor of London’s Design Review Survey reveals the small proportion of planning applications that undergo design review Where these are in place, design requirements can be factored into the development process from the onset, and accounted for in the price paid for land. Frontloading design would also allow for greater levels of engagement and community buy-in. It was held by many that the GLA’s efforts were best placed providing guidance and resourcing to support this, whilst ensuring that planners were equipped with the skills and expertise needed to properly appraise the design of schemes and push for better placemaking. Problems of resourcing and skills Whilst Policy D2 D does encourage the creation of supplementary design tools, overall, many felt that local authorities did not have the sufficient in-house expertise or skills to produce these. Also, local character appraisals, guidance and design codes would take significant resourcing and funds to undertake, whilst there would be a significant lag before these policies had any effect. The GLA were sympathetic to resourcing constraints, though drew attention to the efforts being made by some London authorities. It was agreed that there was a need for existing planners to be upskilled, whilst more design specialists needed to be recruited. The GLA noted that it was raising the profile and importance of design in local authorities via schemes like Public Practice which it is currently expanding, and that the Homebuilding Capacity Fund would also help build the skills at local authority level. The Mayor’s Good Growth by Design programme hopes to address the challenges facing London’s built environment, by helping to ensure appropriate standards are in place, building capacity, supporting diversity, and championing good design Next steps Overall, it seems the Mayor and his team will have a lot to consider moving forward. Like many other sections of the Plan, the design policies would likely benefit from being cut back, referring more explicitly to guidance, and concentrating specifically on matters of strategic importance. Ensuring that new development meets high design standards will largely be down to London Boroughs. As stated, this will be dependent on the willingness of local authorities, whether there are robust local policies and planning tools in place, and having the staff with the necessary design skills in place, to produce guidance and make sound planning decisions. With much of this dependent on resourcing and funding, the Mayor will be somewhat constrained by funding agreements with central Government. The issues discussed at the session must also be understood in the context of the wider suite of policies included in the draft Plan’s design chapter, which cover a range of inter-related issues, including density, tall buildings, the public realm. These will arguably have as much, if not greater, impact on how London looks and feels in the future. Whilst a final version of the London Plan still seems a long way off, it was reassuring to see high levels of engagement on the subject of design, and a genuine willingness from all to strive for higher standards of placemaking across London. [i] Mayor of London, draft new London Plan: Chapter 3 - Design, Policy D1-D3[ii] 'Public Space Public Life' study in London 2004, conducted by Gehl Architects for 'Central London Partnership' and 'Transport for London'[iii] Mayor of London, Planning Capacity Survey See our other blogs in this series: Draft London Plan EiP: A new hope for industrial land? Draft London Plan EiP: Heritage and culture are now dusted Draft London Plan EiP, Affordable Housing: 3D snakes and ladders Stand and deliver… Draft London Plan EiP: ‘Willing Partners’ or not? Lichfields will publish further analysis on the draft London Plan Examination in Public in due course. Click here to subscribe for updates. This blog has been written in general terms and cannot be relied on to cover specific situations. We recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refrain from acting on any of the contents of this blog. Lichfields accepts no duty of care or liability for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this blog. © Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners Ltd 2019, trading as Lichfields. All Rights Reserved. Registered in England, no 2778116. 14 Regent’s Wharf, All Saints Street, London N1 9RL. Designed by Lichfields 2019. Image credit: Paul Hudson