London Mayor ordered to take further action on housing plan

Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has demanded a partial review of the London Plan focusing on industrial land and opportunity areas in the capital, and wants the average rate of delivery to increase from 37,200 to more than 62,300 homes a year to tackle housing delivery backlogs.

London properties blur.jpeg

In a letter to the Rt Hon Sadiq Khan, Gove states the targets are not being met as set out in the plan, and cites chronic under-delivery that has occurred during Khan’s time in office.

Khan has not yet publicly responded to Gove’s letter, but in a press release on 15 March 2024, he announced £100m Housing Kickstart Fund to convert market-rate homes on stalled sites into affordable homes to rent and buy, and in November 2023 he called on the UK Government to commit to £470 million funding to build 76,000 homes on brownfield sites across London. 

Are policies still fit for purpose?

There is an estimated 736 hectares of industrial land in London that could potentially be repurposed as residential land with a capacity for as many as 500,000 homes. Stakeholders have criticised inflexible policies which they say are discouraging developers from bringing forward plans that could unlock this housing pipeline.

Khan must now examine whether the existing policies around designation and use of land are still appropriate, given the capital’s acute housing needs, and look for opportunities to build more housing on industrial land, particularly where there are good public transport links already in place.

Opportunity areas

The 2017 Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment stated that there was the potential for over 460,000 homes to be built in the 47 Opportunity Areas identified by the London Plan by 2041. An Opportunity Area is considered to have the potential to deliver at least 2,500 new homes, 5,000 new jobs, or a combination of the two.

The current rate of delivery would not meet this target and the Secretary of State has asked the Mayor to find ways to accelerate progress by removing barriers to development or providing more planning flexibility in these areas.  

Dedicated support to speed up delivery

In addition, Gove announced a new planning Super Squad that has been created by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), and which will be working with Greenwich and Newham boroughs as a priority. The Squad will comprise leading planners and specialists whose talents will be used to unblock major developments, will provide Greenwich and Newham with £500,000 worth of specialist support in 2024/25, helping to unlock over 7,000 homes.

To help overcome specific issues that are holding back delivery, the Super Squad will also focus some of its early efforts on working strategically across London on complex blocked sites and strategic issues.