Spatial Awareness: The role of Spatial Development Strategies


Spatial Awareness

The role of Spatial Development Strategies

09 May 2022

The original White Paper 2020 suggested that it may be appropriate for Mayors of combined authorities to oversee the strategic distribution of the housing requirement in a way that alters the distribution of numbers. This is the only mention of the potential role of Spatial Development Strategies for our major cities, but is that the only role?

In this Insight, in the specific context of the London Plan, we have considered what role an SDS can and should play in planning for the future of our cities. We consider, through history, what other means there were to plan for London and how successful they were. We conclude that they have been high on aspiration, but that they have not greatly helped to fully achieve the growth potential for London as they have not had the teeth to do so.

We then consider the successive London Plans prepared by three Mayors in the context of its defined role and function and we review what impact they have had on London. Having discussed this topic with representatives of some of the main parties who have a role in delivering development in London - developers, housebuilders and for the Boroughs – we have identified some important conclusions and offer some recommendations that could help shape a London Plan for the future.

Our main findings are that:
  • The London Plan has a critical role in leading growth in London;
  • Important decisions on future direction need to be made by a single authority;

  • A Mayor and the London Plan can be instrumental in setting a higher bar on performance;

  • The London Plan must stay on track with strategic policy only, but the range of strategic policy is wide; and
  • The process for producing and examining an SDS must be clear, focused and short.

We would hope that some of our findings and recommendations could be used to shape other SDS across the country.