London 'must boost densification to meet housing demand'

If London is to follow a 'brownfield only' focus for housing development it will need policies that bring forward 'vastly increased amounts of brownfield land for a process of intensification', according to an essay by the head of planning at an influential think tank.

High density housing: essay says London must build more
High density housing: essay says London must build more

In the first of a series of essays published this week by the Policy Exchange, Chris Walker, head of housing, planning and urban policy at the think-tank, said that green belt development "remains a political taboo".

He said that the essay series "focusses therefore on policy solutions that are about the densification of existing residential areas as well as shifting the balance of land use in our capital from commercial (industrial) use to residential."

"If we are to accept a brownfield-only stance we will need policies that bring forward vastly increased amounts of brownfield land for a process of intensification – i.e. denser housing and a denser London, including an increasing proportion of its land designated for housing. In most respects this seems a reasonable and sensible proposition, not least because London is one of the least dense capital cities in the world", he said.

In a second essay, Nicholas Boys Smith, director of built environment research body Create Streets, said the London Housing Strategy and the London Plan should be rewritten.

He said density targets were "used to justify a range of tower blocks and large multi-storey blocks".

Boys Smith said the London housing shortage could be solved for several generations without building above six storeys and with a "conventional urban arrangement interspaced with squares and pocket parks".

A third report in the same series by Greater London Authority assistant director of housing Jamie Ratcliffe said local development plans should identify far more homes than are actually needed in an area, to account for the low conversion rates of planning permissions to completed dwellings.

"If we are serious about delivering the homes London needs then it is important to identify and earmark a contingency of land over and above that required. This contingency should probably be at least 50 per cent", Ratcliffe said.

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