Pipe says scheme to pool extra planning capacity in London could reduce skills shortages

A scheme to secure extra planning capacity to be shared across London planning departments is to be progressed as a way of alleviating skills shortages in the capital, according to London's deputy mayor for planning.

London's deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe
London's deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe

Jules Pipe, speaking at the launch of the British Property Federation's and GL Hearn’s Annual Planning Survey, said he is "aware of the increased pressure on planning resources in London", and is looking to "identify talented built environment professionals" to help provide a greater pool of resources for London boroughs.  

The scheme, being progressed through the Greater London Authority's (GLA's) London Place Agency initiative, would involve providing a bigger pool of talent within the authority's regeneration team which boroughs could call on if they are preparing local plans or dealing with major planning applications, Pipe said.

He called on a range of organisations to help fund the scheme. "I would expect contributions from the boroughs and additionally the development community as well," he said.

The event heard of continuing dissatisfaction among applicants over determination times, with the average submission to determination time for major applications being seven months, or 31 weeks, excluding pre-application and post-determination work.

Simon Gallagher, planning director at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said the government would continue to consider the case for more resources in the planning system but that financial constraints still remain.

"I have to say that we may have had a change of government but the public finances have not changed, and we have not suddenly magicked a surplus where previously there was a deficit," he said. "But there is a bit more space to have a sensible conversation on this." 

Gallagher also said the government’s forthcoming white paper on housing is likely to contain measures to improve the effectiveness of the planning system and that he is "pretty sure" that the recommendations of the Local Plans Expert Group will be "feeding into the process of thinking about what we need".

Meanwhile, Pipe told the event that the mayor’s forthcoming Housing Supplementary Planning Document, expected in late November, will require developers to provide a "benchmark" level of affordable housing, which if delivered would obviate the need for a viability review. However, he added that schemes could still be "subject to closer scrutiny by the GLA’s in-house viability team".

Pipe also said the new London Plan now being prepared is likely to identify new opportunity areas in south London "along growth corridors". On green belt policy, he said London mayor Sadiq Khan is committed to "managing London’s growth within current boundaries as far as possible".


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