Mayor of London

Secretary of State’s Letter to the Mayor of London

On Friday 13 March 2020, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, regarding the Intention to Publish version of the London Plan. The letter is scathing in its criticism of the Plan’s apparent failure to enable the sufficient delivery of housing to meet London’s needs.

In the letter, Jenrick highlights that the Intention to Publish version of the London Plan sets out a housing target of 52,000 new homes per year, which is well below the Mayor Khan’s own identified need of 66,000, a figure that was published in 2017 following a Strategic Housing Market Assessment. The letter also contends that the Plan drives families out of the city by focusing on the provision of smaller one-bed units.

Ultimately, the letter states that Jenrick is exercising his powers to prevent publication of the New London Plan until a number of Directions are incorporated. Two key Directions are the removal of the requirement for ‘no net loss’ of industrial floorspace and a push for maximising over optimising density, amongst other recommendations, to ensure that a sufficient supply of housing can be delivered.

In its current form, the Intention to Publish version of the London Plan requires a number of boroughs to retain their existing industrial capacity and overall, for London to retain its current level of industrial floorspace within designated Strategic Industrial Locations and Locally Significant Industrial Sites. The key issue here is the lack of flexibility for Local Authorities to allow for housing development on industrial land which may be considered suitable for residential use. Jenrick calls for a relaxation of these policies to ensure that Councils can make more optimal use of industrial land where housing is in high demand.

With regard to the point that Local Authorities should maximise, rather than optimise, site capacity, Jenrick highlights that high density developments should be appropriately located and built within clusters, keeping a more ‘gentle’ density around high streets and town centres, and goes on to say that capacity should be optimised in and around stations. There is some confusion here as the Directives revert back to use of the word ‘optimise,’ however it seems the main point is that Local Authorities should do more to increase density where appropriate. Given that the Intention to Publish version of the London Plan already requires Boroughs to identify appropriate locations for tall buildings, and encourages higher densities around well-connected locations, this Directive may be considered a moot point.

What does this mean for the New London Plan? Mayor Khan will need to review the 11 Directives set out by Jenrick and amend the Plan before it can be adopted. Although some of the suggested changes are minor, the more significant alterations could have a considerable impact on London’s housing supply, with a push towards the delivery of a further 14,000 homes per year.

With the ongoing coronavirus crisis, we expect that Mayor Khan is currently focused on more pressing matters, albeit given the delay of the Mayoral Elections, this should give him some time to mull over the proposed Directions. It remains unclear, however, when we might see the New London Plan adopted.