With a £44billion pledge to housebuilding set out in the Budget last month, housing remains atop of the government’s agenda. However, this is easier said than done; in London in particular, serious amendments to planning are necessary to achieve the numbers required.
As a result, the capital’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made a significant announcement explaining plans to accommodate a growth in housebuilding, providing over 250,000 new homes in London.
The Mayor has relaxed rules ensuring the protection of local character in order to allow the necessary construction and encourage homes to be built in London suburbs, including historic ones.
As such, local planning departments have been instructed not to reject planning applications on the basis of preserving character, if the location is within 800 metres of transport hubs or town centres.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, the Mayor said: “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.”
Mayor Khan’s plans will enable more homes to be built over the next 10 years, primarily on small sites, as well as extensions to existing buildings, be that upwards or outwards, on shops or residential blocks. It will affect 13 of London’s outer suburbs.
Of course, this announcement is not good news to everyone, with some Conservative MPs accusing the Mayor of “declaring war on the suburbs’”, despite the Mayor stipulating that the results must not reduce the overall “green cover”.
“Green cover” will be maintained by implementing green roofs and landscaping, for example.
Whether in favour of this latest pledge or not, the plan will assist with the capital-wide housebuilding target of 650,000 homes to be built until 2029, 250,000 of which are set for the 13 outer suburbs in question. Something drastic is necessary to double the current rate of building – which has to be done to meet this requirement.
Further to these plans, Khan also proposes that pre-fabricated homes be provided on small plots of land while they await long-term development.
Regardless of all these changes, SME developers need to be encouraged financially to build and invest in these locations. Hammond identified the SME sector as one which needed support, as without them, Britain ‘will remain dependent on the major national housebuilders who dominate the industry’. However, little has been said about how this will be achieved – so it remains to be seen how successful this will be.