London planning news, November 2020


London planning news, November 2020

11 Nov 2020



Headline news


The Mayor publishes response to the Planning for the Future White Paper consultation

The Mayor has published his response to Planning for the Future, the Government white paper which sets out major reforms to the planning system. While sceptical of the practicality of the reforms, he argues that Mayoral and combined authorities could play a greater role in supporting some of the government’s broader aims and objectives, particularly in the absence of the duty to cooperate.
The Mayor broadly disagrees with the policies set out under pillar one of the White Paper, which call for the simplification of development plans and the introduction of three areas designations. The Mayor’s response argues that the patterns of development within London are complex, interconnected and granular, and the need to reflect important detailed spatial criteria within plans would be compromised. Noting the absence of different layers of detail within the proposed new system of development plans, the response states that it is crucial to have an over-arching strategic vision and policies in place, in order to coordinate between different growth areas across individual housing market areas. The proposals are skewed toward housing supply and not necessarily the land uses which may constrain this but allow for delivery, such as in town centres, for education and business.
Concerns are also raised over how effective the changes to the standard method for housing requirements will be in accounting for constraints, if determined at a national level. The response states: “While there is merit in establishing consistent approaches to calculating residual demand, an overly simplistic approach could result in under-estimating the amount of land required for these uses, leading to dormitory settlements with no jobs and services.
The Mayor argues that himself and combined authorities, as well as any further devolved authorities which may emerge, are best positioned to support the strategic delivery of development in the appropriate locations, whilst also helping to coordinate the delivery of key infrastructure projects. Despite this he notes that “the role of the city-regions is effectively absent from the white paper. Where devolved powers are in place, they should include those roles assigned to national level in the white paper where this is consistent with the devolved powers of the relevant administration”. The importance of a strategic tier of planning is further heightened by the removal of the duty to cooperate at the plan-making stage.
Whilst various issues are raised over the proposed changes to the system of developer contributions, and the impact these changes may have on future delivery within London, the Mayor notes that the white paper indicates that the Mayoral Community Infrastructure Levy (MCIL) will be retained. “This is critical to delivering Crossrail and the repayment of financing borrowed to complete the project. [..] A structural change in MCIL operations could put a strain on the GLA’s finances and its ability to service Crossrail-related debt.
Further to this, the Mayor supports the Government’s push for greater digitisation of the planning system. The response states that the Greater London Authority (GLA) is currently exploring ways of presenting the London Plan digitally, so as to allow users to access “exactly those policies needed for their individual purposes”.
GLA responds to select committee consultation on the planning system
The GLA has also submitted a response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee’s survey, seeking views on the planning system in England and the Government’s proposed reforms.
Whilst acknowledging there are issues with the current system, the GLA argues that the existing systems in place broadly work for London. Concerns are raised at the possible effects of introducing whole-scale changes to the planning system, with the potential for significant delay and added uncertainty causing issues for plan-making efforts and disruption for the current pipeline of development within the capital. Improvement to the existing planning system have the potential to achieve many of the Government’s aims and objectives, if made in conjunction with non-planning measures, such as providing additional funding for infrastructure and affordable housing.
The response calls for a review of planning fees, in order to properly cover the costs of plan-making, determination of planning applications and enforcement. Interestingly, the GLA have also highlighted the need for changes to the current process for amending planning permissions, calling for a simpler approach, as petitioned by the Planning Officers Society.
Many of the concerns raised regarding the White Paper proposals included in response are aligned with those set out in the Mayor’s response to the White Paper consultation, as discussed above. Other matters raised include concerns over the recent expansion of Permitted Development Rights (PDR), and the Government’s focus on housing numbers above other matters, which the GLA states must not be to the wider detriment of quality, or the wider objectives of the planning system when taken as a whole.

Mayor of London, consultation response to Planning for the Future

Greater London Authority, Response to HCLG Committee Survey on the planning system in England




Quote of the month

We are also currently looking at how the new London Plan can be presented digitally to enable customers to quickly access exactly those policies needed for their individual purposes. However, it is noted that steps must also be taken to ensure those with compromised, intermittent or no access to digital channels are not disenfranchised.
Greater London Authority response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee Survey on the Planning System in England

London Plan: Five Draft Documents for Consultation

A series of consultations have been published by the Mayor, seeking views on new guidance for key areas of policy within the new London Plan and other areas related to the built environment. Pre-consultation drafts of the documents had previously been published in March. The documents include:
  • Good Quality Homes for All Londoners;
  • Public London Charter;
  • Circular Economy Statements;
  • Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessments; and
  • Be Seen Energy Monitoring Assessments.
The first of these, ‘Good quality Homes for Londoners’ focuses on ensuring that land is best utilised so that the appropriate amounts of new housing can be built in the most suitable locations, with an emphasis on delivering high quality design. The guidance is broken into four modules. Module A focuses on site capacity at the plan making stage to ensure that suitable sites are selected for development. Module B looks into small sites and design codes, module C on housing design standards, while module D includes a range of case studies which demonstrate how different aspects of the guidance can be delivered.
The suite of guidance also includes a new calculation tool which allows users to experiment with building typology, Gross External Area, and number of floors, in order to determine the indicative site capacity of a given development, whilst complying with the design requirements set out in the draft London Plan.
The second consultation looks at the draft Public London Charter. This charter sets out how public spaces can be managed so that high levels of inclusivity are achieved, in terms of public access, and that restrictions are only implemented when it is deemed essential for the safe management of the space.
The third consultation looks at new guidance on the preparation of Circular Economy Statements. This relates to Policy S17 of the intend to publish version of the new London Plan on ‘Reducing waste and supporting the Circular Economy’, which requires that certain types of development will require circular economy statements to accompany planning applications. Circular economy statements should show how new developments will seek to conserve resources, while increasing resource efficiency, such as managing waste sustainably and retaining materials in their highest value use for as long as possible with a view of future re-use.
The fourth consultation covers the draft Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessments Guidance. Whole Life-Cycle Carbon emissions are defined as the carbon emissions resulting from the construction and the use of a building over its entire life, including its demolition and disposal. The draft guidance sets out how assessments should be conducted, considering how the impact of carbon emissions can be best determined over the whole cycle of a development.
The last consultation covers the new Be Seen Energy Monitoring Assessment Guidance. This refers to the ‘be seen’ stage of the energy hierarchy set out in Policy SI 2 of the Intend to Publish version of the London Plan, which requires the actual operational energy performance of buildings to be reported for at least five years after construction. The guidance sets out the responsibilities that each party needs to comply with the policy, covering the three key stages of the lifecycle of a development, including the planning stage, as-built stage, and the in-use stage.
All the consultations will run until 15 January 2021.

Mayor of London, Consultation on guidance documents to support the new London Plan

Hard copy of London Plan not required until 2022

Draft legislation has been laid to extend the temporary time period during which the Mayor of London may make his current spatial strategy available for inspection by electronic means only, from 31 December 2020 to 31 December 2021.
The draft Business and Planning Act 2020 (London Spatial Development Strategy) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 would amend subsection 2 of section 21 so that the section 21 applies until the end of next year.
This is one of several planning-related COVID-19 measures to benefit from an extension. Please see Lichfields’ England Planning News for details of these extensions.

Draft Business and Planning Act 2020 (London Spatial Development Strategy) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Mayoral Survey highlights resourcing concerns

The results of the 2020 Placeshaping Capacity Survey have revealed that capacity and funding are major concerns of planning teams across London.
One key finding from the survey is that housing capacity is uneven across London, with some boroughs having ample capacity to meet their housing targets while others have less moving forward considering their housing target in the new London Plan. Concerns are also raised over varied capacity across different planning and development services. For example, departments for planning and development have seen their average capacity rise from 20 in 2014 to 26 now, while Regeneration teams have seen their capacity reduced from 20 in 2014 to an average of 11 today.
Placemaking services have seen capacity fall from 19.4% since 2014. The decrease is considered to have had profound consequences, especially since the onset of Coronavirus, with the report stressing that authorities will need further capacity to support the economic recovery across London’s high streets following the pandemic. What is also clear from the report is that most authorities are reliant on agency staff to fill roles with 78% of authorities doing so. The challenge of retaining staff has also been highlighted, with 83% of authorities seeing it as a challenge to meeting capacity despite a slight decrease since the onset of Coronavirus.

Mayor of London: 2020 Placemaking Capacity Survey, Results Report

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