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Sir Bob Kerslake urges Government to devolve more powers to new Mayor and London Boroughs

Friday, 01 July 2016

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Lord Kerslake has considered the impact of the 2016 Housing and Planning Act and highlighted the need for new sources of private and public investment to help deliver the necessary 500,000 homes that the capital requires over the course of the next decade. Whilst the Housing Commission’s report set out a list of recommendations for immediate action for the Mayor and the boroughs to take, Lord Kerslake points out that the power and resources available to them are insufficient to match the scale of the challenge.

Lord Kerslake urges the new Mayor and 33 London boroughs to “make a bold and comprehensive offer to the Government to deliver the 50,000 homes a year by the end of the decade, with half shared ownership and half affordable housing for rent. They should also commit to delivering the skilled workforce needed to design and build these and to eliminate the unacceptably poor conditions in parts of the private sector by 2025.”

His comments were made at a seminar in central London hosted by real estate adviser Bilfinger GVA. 'London’s neighbourhoods – delivering a successful approach' was part of an 'Evolving London' series of seminars focusing on London's key real estate-based challenges.

The event took place at the Kings Fund, Cavendish Square, London, with Sir Bob Kerslake, Chair of the London Housing Committee as keynote speaker and Professor Greg Clarke CBE moderating the session.

Lord Kerslake added: “Against this ambition, London is falling far short. Last year only 25,000 new homes were built and in the last decade, only 194,000.”

He identified the barriers as being: land and planning, investment and skills, and funding and regulation, commenting, “There is too little land identified in the London Plan. The Plan is some 15% short of what is needed to deliver the required 50,000 homes per year. We also rely very heavily on larger sites, many of which are complex and need big infrastructure investment and long timescales to be delivered.”

He stressed: “There is plenty of public land in London that could be freed up for development, but it often takes far too long to get it to the market.”

Lord Keslake also highlighted that the Mayor’s office estimates that around £16 billion is needed for 50,000 new homes to be built, however last year only half this amount was spent, with new orders falling sharply.

Specifically, he asks the Government to:

  • Make the London Plan the National Planning Policy Framework in London;
  • Lift the current borrowing constraints on both the GLA and the boroughs;
  • Broaden London’s revenue base by allowing it to retain all or part of its stamp duty income;
  • Permit a discretionary charge equivalent to the lost Council Tax income on unimplemented planning consents; and,
  • Devolve decisions on planning fees and area wide licensing.

Turning his attention to Brexit, Lord Kerslake stated that this gives Government the opportunity to rethink homeownership and house building policies.

Gerry Hughes, Chief Executive at Bilfinger GVA comments: “I’m delighted that Lord Kerslake was able to join us at our latest Evolving London seminar. He made some very pertinent points and I echo his sentiment for devolved planning powers to London. I also agree that whilst housing associations and builders of homes for rent have played a vital role in helping to fill the housing deficit, the London boroughs need to be given the opportunity to do far more themselves.”

He continues: “Lord Kerslake referenced Thamesmead as a site with the potential to double in size, from 14,000 to 28,000 homes. Both Peabody and Bilfinger GVA are committed to this development, however Lord Kerslake is right to point out that if we want to realise the full potential, then further investment in strategic infrastructure is needed.”

For more information on the event, please see here alternatively, please find us on Twitter @GVAViews and join the conversation using #EvolvingLondon.