Over three years ago, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, released his Draft New London Plan, intended to update and replace the current (2016) London Plan. More than a year after it was first submitted to (and rejected by) the Government for approval, and after much to-ing and fro-ing between the Mayor and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with no less than 13 directions for changes being issued, the Mayor finally released his new London Plan on 2 March 2021.
The London Plan outlines the Mayor's development strategy for London as a whole, setting out an economic, environmental, transport and social framework for development. The most notable recent changes in the Publication version of the London Plan include:
- Affordable Housing: A change in the approach to affordable housing with more weight given to the provision of London living rent and a reinforcement of the 'fast track' vs 'viability tested' routes depending on the percentage provisions proposed. Small sites (of 9 units or less) are, however, no longer required to make any contributions towards affordable housing, in recognition of the contribution that smaller sites can make to overall housing numbers if they are not impeded by costly contributions towards affordable provision.
- Housing Numbers: The draft London Plan included a target of 65,000 new homes per year. Following recommendation by the Inspector this has since been reduced, despite not meeting the 93,579 target generated through the Government's latest 2020 standard methodology (which includes an uplift of 35% on top of the previous 2017 figures). To encourage delivery however and reduce reliance on small (often undeliverable) sites, a more realistic lower, yet still ambitious, target of 52,287 homes p.a. has therefore been included.
- Green Belt: Previously, development proposals which were considered harmful to the Green Belt were to be refused without exception, and this has now been changed back to be in line with Central Government policy, allowing such schemes to be permitted providing they can demonstrate that very special circumstances exist. In addition, the former Intend to Publish (ItP) Plan expressly stated that there would be no support for the de-designation of the Green Belt, which has also been revised to allow the extension or de-designation of the Green Belt where justified by exceptional circumstances.
- Metropolitan Open Land: Similar to the amendments to Green Belt policy, the Mayor has also responded to the inspector's recommendations in relation to MOL, withdrawing his previous policy that development proposals which could have been detrimental to MOL should be refused, and instead the publication document states that MOL boundaries may be changed in “exceptional circumstances when this is fully evidenced and justified”.
- Industrial Floorspace: Khan has also relaxed his policy to prevent the loss of industrial floorspace across London, with the latest version of the plan replacing the previous policy of no net loss of industrial floorspace (within designated Strategically Industrial Locations and Locally Significant Industrial Sites) to now allow consideration to be given for substituting industrial uses with housing where a clear housing need exists, if those industrial uses can be reasonably provided elsewhere.
- Tall Buildings: The Publication London Plan now includes a more specific definition of tall buildings, namely “not to be less than 6 storeys or 18 metres measured from ground to the floor level of the uppermost storey”. Importantly, the Plan now also directs the boroughs to set out suitable locations for tall buildings in their local plans and states that tall buildings should only be developed in these locations. . There is also no longer any specific support in principle for tall buildings in Opportunity Areas or in the CAZ or in Town Centres as before.
Other commitments include the ambitious aspiration of making London a zero-carbon city by 2030, and support for a shift in the way people move around the city, so that 80% of journeys are by sustainable means of transport such as walking, cycling or the use of public transport.
Now that it has been adopted, the London Plan 2021 replaces the previous 2016 London Plan as the spatial development strategy for Greater London.