Boris eyes new regional plan for South East and London

London mayor Boris Johnson is keen to create a strategic regional plan covering the capital and the greater South East and is organising a summit next spring to discuss the issue with Home Counties council chiefs.

London mayor Boris Johnson at the launch of the London Infrastructure Plan in east London in July
London mayor Boris Johnson at the launch of the London Infrastructure Plan in east London in July

The news was revealed by the Greater London Authority’s (GLA’s) assistant director of planning, Stewart Murray, who was speaking at a conference on Friday.

Referring to the very first Greater London Plan drawn up by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and published in 1944, Murray said the document could be a "new Abercrombie plan which embraced the needs of London and the South East that could be taken forward by the new London mayor after the 2016 elections".

To prepare the plan, the mayor wants to establish a commission to look at how housing growth across the greater South East could be managed, Murray told the conference, which was discussing planning across the region.

Murray said his officers have been meeting with their counterparts from the East of England Local Government Association and umbrella group South East England Councils and there was interest in taking forward a joint initiative.

The GLA’s draft Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP), published at the start of the year, sets the capital's ten-year housing target at 42,000 homes a year, but outlines an annual housing need of between 49,000 and 62,000.

The gap between London’s housing need and target sparked concerns among South East councils of a possible ‘overspill’ from the capital that they might have to accommodate.

But Kent County Council’s growth, environment and transport director Barbara Cooper, also speaking at the event in London, said the county recognised that it was part of a "global city region and that trust needed to be built up between London and its surrounding counties".

"It’s a question of making the first move towards co-operation," she added.

Cooper warned however that it was not just a question of London expecting the county to accommodate its overspill demand.

"The county would want to see local benefits in meeting its needs," she said.

Oxfordshire County Council’s deputy director for strategy and infrastructure planning, Bev Hindle, suggested that the challenge will be to get districts to recognise their role within the region.

"Some districts are inward-looking, seeking to create self-contained developments that meet local needs - rather than seeing their role within the wider area," she said.

In March, a letter from Murray to Bedford Borough Council during a consultation on the draft FALP said he wished to "strongly advise" the council to take account of a potential gap between housing supply and a growing demand in their local plans.

In July, 51 authorities wrote to Murray asking for a guarantee that they would not have to meet the capital's unmet housing need.

Further Home Counties fears were prompted by the GLA’s London Infrastructure Plan 2050, published in July, which sets out the mayor’s long-term infrastructure goals to accommodate the capital’s growing population.

As reported by Planning earlier this month, its suggestion for housing growth in towns outside London prompted fury among South East authorities, with 60 objecting in a letter.

Friday’s conference, Shaping Growth Across the South East, was co-hosted by New London Architecture, Design South East and Urban Design London.

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