In recent months the Mayor has published a range of strategies and evidence based documents that provide a strong hint at the direction the London Plan will take. However, its publication marks a strategic opportunity to bring these strands together and, against an ongoing backdrop of uncertainty, provide a clear direction of travel for the city that will enhance its World City status and maintain the diversity of places, activities and institutions that makes London tick. It will need to move beyond planning policy to become an organising structure for the the GLA family and its partners to unlock growth, and identify not just the locations of growth but also the approaches to unlocking their delivery.
The primary focus for the London Plan will be on balancing the priorities for growth. Forecasts suggest we will need to deliver more housing, more employment space, more community infrastructure and more open space than ever before, all within the current urban form of the city. Meeting this challenge will need a greater innovation in the range of development solutions and approaches London deploys.
Whilst the need for housing is chronic, it cannot simply be delivered at the expense of London’s economic capacity, particularly when the interfaces between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred. The London Plan should encourage a more positive approach to mixed use development, enabling real employment to be retained and expanded across the capital. A clearer approach to Strategic Industrial Land and its future intensification will be welcomed, enshrining a ‘no net loss’ approach whilst freeing some of the shackles for developers to innovate with new multi-storey, multi-use typologies to make much better use of land. Guidance and parameters will be required to ensure a new London mix of residential and workspace is delivered in appropriate locations, managing the expectations, and setting the direction of travel for, private sector led development in the future.
In parallel the London Plan will need to embrace a wider range of housing typologies and construction methods, providing clear policy support and guidance that unlocks innovation in the sector and delivers developments that meet the changing needs of London’s residents more quickly. It will also need to provide much greater emphasis on providing housing for London’s growing older population, ensuring it is well located to provide access to the range of services needed to support independent living. The Mayor’s approach to affordable housing is clear, but making a positive case for PRS, Co-Living and other new products will be vital if we are to meet the wide range of needs and affordability challenges facing the capital.
Ultimately the London Plan will need to manage significant transition, both spatially as new infrastructures unlock growth, but also in terms of development as wider agendas on air quality, security and healthy streets become more of a focus. Delivering more intense development around transport hubs to encourage public transport usage and maximise land value uplift, positively planning for the consolidation of Central London servicing deliveries to reduce vehicular movements, integrating defensive infrastructure into high quality public realm and ensuring London’s buildings are environmentally responsible will all change the look, feel and nature of our places and should lie at the heart of how the London Plan shapes our city.
All of these also suggest a renewed focus on London’s network of town centres as key places of exchange and sustainable growth, building back activity into the locations residents identify with most closely. Our towns should once again become the focus of new employment opportunities, deliver new accessible homes and provide the focus for cultural and civic life, all supporting a vibrant and diverse retail and leisure offer. The London Plan will need to be positive about the diversification and intensification of uses within our town centres, high streets and high roads, giving them a new central role in a resilient future for London.
Critically the London Plan will need to deliver great places that retain and attract the best talent and businesses to London. It will need to place people at the heart of matters, ensuring town centre rejuvenation, estate renewal, brownfield development and station area intensification deliver both for existing residents and those attracted to the city. It will need to take more care about how the new and existing integrate and clearly articulate the benefits of change to existing neighbourhoods.