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Housing Secretary Stops Mayor publishing London Plan

In short, the Government’s Housing Secretary has told Mayor Khan to rewrite his London Plan, removing all safeguards and aspirations to preserve green space in the capital.

In response, Neil Sinden of CPRE London wrote to Robert Jenrick
supporting increasing housing but warning that his intervention would fuel threats to the Green Belt and MOL. He said London has less than two thirds of the green open space it needs for the number of people who live there: “It is vital that we retain all green space in London and do everything possible to promote the better use of previously developed land instead” . Please see here for the CPRE London’s article in their April bulletin on their site, or read further down:

In March, housing secretary Robert Jenrick ordered Sadiq Khan not to publish the London Plan until significant changes have been made. Jenrick’s letter often strays from planning into politics. He told Khan said other mayors have done better, citing Andy Street the Conservative mayor for the West Midlands as an exemplar. “I am concerned that your Plan actively discourages ambitious boroughs” that want to build more housing. Jenrick said: “Housing in our capital is simply too important for the underachievement and drift displayed under your mayoralty, and now in your Plan, to continue.” He said Khan must meet with MHCLG officials regularly and provide a quarterly report on progress. Khan must start considering the next London Plan immediately and demonstrate how this will meet the higher level and broader housing needs of London.

Green Belt. Jenrick instructs Khan to change his draft policy which states that any development which would damage the Green Belt should be refused. The policy must align with the NPPF which allows Green Belt development in “very special circumstances”. Khan had supported extension of the Green Belt “where appropriate” and said its de-designation will not be supported. Instead Jenrick insists the plan should read: “Exceptional circumstances are required to justify either the extension or de-designation of the Green Belt through the preparation or review of a local plan.”

Metropolitan Open Land. The draft London Plan had said: “Development proposals that would harm MOL should be refused.” Jenrick told Khan that Green Belt policies that allow development in very special circumstances must also apply to MOL. Khan’s insistence that the area of MOL should not be reduced and its quality should be improved must be deleted.

Housing. In his uncompromising letter, Jenrick accused Khan of not taken having the “tough choices necessary” to build the homes needed :
“Housing delivery in London under your mayoralty has been deeply disappointing, over the last three years housing delivery has averaged just 37,000 a year; falling short of the existing Plan target and well below your assessment of housing need.” Khan is “jeopardising housing delivery” and had turned down £1bn of government affordable housing funding:
“Following the Planning Inspectorate’s investigation of your Plan, they only deem your Plan credible to deliver 52,000 homes a year. This is significantly below your own identified need of around 66,000 homes and well below what most commentators think is the real need of London… The shortfall between housing need in London and the homes your Plan delivers has significant consequences for Londoners.”
Jenrick accused Khan of aiming to build too many small homes and not providing enough for families, driving them out of them out of the capital when they had children. He also demanded more homes built for sale rather than for rent.

Density. Jenrick directs Khan to promote “gentle density around high streets and town centres, and higher density in clusters which have already taken this approach.” Assembly Conservatives had complained that Khan was “declaring war on the suburbs”.

Small sites policy. Jenrick said: “The lack of credibility the Panel of Inspectors were able to attribute to your small sites policies resulted in a drop in the Plan’s housing requirement of 12,713 homes per year.” No alternative approach to Khan’s small sites policy is offered. Garden grabbing was also controversially included in the draft London Plan leading the Conservative group to allege “a land grab for every inch of garden in our capital”. Jenrick declared the garden grabbing policy “unattractive”.

Regeneration. Jenrick blames Khan for the problems at Old Park and Park Royal, where the failure to agree how regeneration would proceed with landowner Cargiant led to a loss of £325m government funding. He said that if Khan can’t deliver sites like this, he will “consider all options for ensuring delivery”. He calls Khan’s requirement of a residents’ ballot before estate regeneration is an “onerous condition” (all 13 ballots had voted in favour of regeneration ). Khan is instructed to give boroughs more flexibility on using designated industrial land for housing “removing the ‘no net loss’ requirement on existing industrial land sites whilst ensuring boroughs bring new industrial land into the supply.”

The wider South East. Khan is directed to begin “producing and delivering a new strategy with authorities in the wider South East to offset unmet [London] housing need in a joined-up way.”

Heathrow. Following the appeal court decision ruling that the decision on the third runway was illegal, Jenrick declined to give a direction over the policies opposing Heathrow expansion but reserved the right to do so.

Parking. There are no national parking standards for new housing but Jenrick wants more generous provision in Outer London areas. Boroughs should be allowed to make greater provision for retail parking than Khan proposes.

Reaction. City Hall responded defiantly:
“The Mayor makes no apologies for trying to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the capital while at the same time protecting and enhancing the Green Belt.
The Secretary of State is trying to run roughshod over the Mayor’s efforts to finalise a London Plan. London is best served by the government devolving further funding and powers to the capital to build the affordable homes it urgently needs, instead of taking this heavy-handed approach.”

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