Home Counties rap plan for new homes outside London

Sixty local authorities in the Home Counties have written to London mayor Boris Johnson to protest about suggestions in his draft infrastructure plan for new housing outside the capital.

Johnson: petitioned by more than 50 councils on plans to build homes around capital
Johnson: petitioned by more than 50 councils on plans to build homes around capital

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050 (LIP) sets out the mayor’s long-term infrastructure goals to accommodate an expected population of 11 million. Published by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in July, the document was under consultation until the end of last month.

The LIP rules out a review of London’s green belt up to 2025, but suggests that housing densification should be concentrated in towns on key rail and transport corridors outside the capital.

The document says: "By increasing densities in such areas to 100 dwellings per hectare, our initial analysis demonstrates the potential for a population increase of around one million."

A final version of document will be published by early 2015, according to the GLA, and would "significantly inform" the next review of its statutory planning document, the London Plan.

But 60 local authorities from Essex, Hertfordshire, Sussex, Surrey and Berkshire have reacted with fury to the suggestion.

In their letter to the mayor, they write that they "have very significant concerns" that the LIP has "made some quite specific assumptions about potential locations of growth beyond London outside the statutory planning process and without the involvement of local authorities beyond the capital".

The letter continues that the planning process for how the wider South East can contribute to accommodating London’s growing population should be handled through the London Plan rather than the LIP.

It states: "In advance of that collaboration, the authorities take the view that all references in the LIP and supporting material that point to specific locations outside London other than in a very generic way should be removed."

One of the authorities, Castle Point Borough Council in south Essex, has made a formal objection to the plan in which it describes the document as "legally deficient" and "fundamentally flawed".

It complains that the LIP proposes growth in the green belt outside London but fails to review its own green belt boundaries. It also raises concern that the densification proposals would be inappropriate and potentially harmful.

Another signatory south Essex authority, Basildon Borough Council, has also objected to the LIP for similar reasons.

Sir Edward Lister, the GLA’s deputy mayor for planning, said: "The LIP sets out some scenarios to stimulate long-term thinking about the consequences for infrastructure depending on where that growth occurs. We look forward to continuing to engage with councils in the wider South East."

Lister added that most of the 300 responses received were supportive, but the GLA hoped to address any particular concerns.

Earlier this year, 51 Home Counties councils also expressed concerns about fulfilling London’s unmet housing need during a consultation on the GLA’s draft Further Alterations to the London Plan.

Martin Taylor, associate director at planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, said the issue of London’s housing need creates "an inherent tension" between the planning strategies of the GLA and the Home Counties.

He said the duty to cooperate is insufficient to tackle the problem and a "larger-than-local" mechanism is required to strategically plan for London’s needs.

NOTE: This article was amended after publication on 20 November to state that 60 local authorities were signatories to the letter, including Basildon Borough Council, which the original article had stated had not signed the document. The original article was based on a letter which we now understand to be a draft rather than the final version, which Basildon Council had indeed signed.

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