Small sites targets and higher density push in draft London Plan

Boroughs would be set housing targets for small sites and maximum density restrictions would be scrapped under proposals in the new draft London Plan, published today.

London mayor Sadiq Khan launching the document earlier today at Barking Riverside
London mayor Sadiq Khan launching the document earlier today at Barking Riverside

The plan would change current London density restrictions, allowing councils and developers to agree their own densities on housing schemes on a site-by-site basis.

The document includes a new policy on "optimising housing density" that says development proposals "must make the most efficient use of land and be developed at the optimum density".

The optimum density would be calculated using a "design-led approach to determine the capacity of the site", taking into account factors including its context and public transport accessibility.

Proposed housing schemes that do not "demonstrably optimise the housing density of the site in accordance with this policy should be refused", the plan says.

In a statement, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said the mayor "has removed outdated constraints and rigid density guidelines to give a significant boost to the number of new and affordable homes given planning permission in the capital".

The current density matrix, set by previous mayor Boris Johnson, is described by the GLA as "complicated" with "meaningless maximum rules for the number of homes on developments".

Councils and developers "should take a case-by-case approach to each site to determine its capacity based on surrounding infrastructure", it added.

But speaking at this morning’s launch of the plan at Barking Riverside in east London, deputy mayor for housing James Murray said the mayor would take a view on the density of schemes of 150 homes or more that are referred to him.

The plan also introduces individual targets for boroughs to deliver housing on smaller sites, defined as those of 25 homes or fewer. 

To meet their the small sites targets, the plan says boroughs "should apply a presumption in favour" of certain types of small housing development, including "infill development on vacant or underused sites".

The policy, according to the GLA, forms part of the mayor’s "commitment to stimulate growth for small and medium-sized builders in the capital".

The GLA said that the new plan also promises:

  • Greater protection for industrial land
  • A "new approach" to working with councils in the wider South East to explore "opportunities for additional growth in sustainable locations outside London"
  • Making sure tall buildings are "in the right places and built to high design and safety standards"
  • New homes and jobs alongside planned new infrastructure in "growth corridors" such as Crossrail 2, the Thames Estuary, the Bakerloo Line extension, the Elizabeth Line and High Speed Two
  • Stronger planning protection for pubs
  • Powers for boroughs to refuse planning applications for new fast food takeaways near schools
  • Measures to improve fire safety, with policies setting out "how all developments must meet the highest standards of fire safety, minimising the risk of fire spread, including providing a fire evacuation lift to allow means of escape"

The plan includes an overall housing target for the capital of 65,000 homes a year and raises targets for the vast majority of London boroughs. It further incorporates the mayor’s commitment for 50 per cent of all new homes built to be "genuinely affordable".

The draft plan can be found here.

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