London’s suburbs are braced for a wave of construction after the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced that rules protecting local character would be lifted to enable a big increase in housebuilding.
The capital’s outer boroughs must build more new homes over the next decade than are in the whole of the city of Manchester, according to Khan’s draft London plan. A third of all new housing planned in the capital will be built on small sites, including in back gardens and in upwards extensions of existing houses, apartment blocks and shops.
The plan sets the capital’s development strategy until 2029 and calls for more than 250,000 new homes to be built in the capital’s 13 outer suburbs as part of a new London-wide housebuilding target of 650,000 over that period – more than double the current rate.
“I am using all of the powers at my disposal to tackle the housing crisis head on – removing ineffective constraints on homebuilders so we make the most of precious land in our capital,” Khan said.
The Conservatives at City Hall immediately accused Khan of “declaring war on the suburbs’” with a plan that would leave outer boroughs “browner, overcrowded and harder to get around”.
Andrew Boff, the deputy chairman of the London assembly committee that will scrutinise the draft London Plan, said: “The strategy removes protection against building in gardens and abandons restrictions on the density of new developments.”
In a move that is likely to anger civic societies, which often rally support against what they see as overdevelopment of historic suburbs, planners should no longer reject applications in order to preserve the character of areas within 800 metres of transport hubs or town centres.
The plan also includes a presumption in favour of development on “infill” on vacant lots and gardens as long as there is no net loss of “green cover”, which can be achieved with measures including building green roofs and planting street trees.
Limits on the density of development would be lifted and the plan states that proposals that do not “optimise” housing density should be rejected.
The London Plan, when adopted, forms the statutory framework for all planning authorities in the capital.
City Hall hopes its new emphasis on suburbs will produce cheaper homes than has been the case in recent years, as a flood of luxury apartments built in central London has done little to alleviate the affordability crisis.
It wants to encourage smaller builders back into the market by removing barriers to development on small sites that they are more likely to be able to afford.
The suburban boroughs with the biggest housing targets are Barnet in north London and Croydon in the south, which are each expected to grow by 30,000 homes. The east London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets have been set the highest targets of all, with demands for 38,500 and 35,110 new homes.
Such is the extent of the housing crisis that the plan also proposes a new generation of temporary prefabricated homes to be erected on vacant sites awaiting long-term development.
The draft policy confirms that Khan wants 50% of all new homes across London to be “affordable”, with a minimum of 35% on private sites and at least 50% on public sector land.
He says they must be built alongside private housing rather than in separate ghettos and that cash in lieu will only be accepted in exceptional circumstances. At least 30% of all new homes must be available at the cheapest social rent.