Westminster proposes size limits on new homes in draft local plan

Westminster City Council is proposing to limit the size of new homes to 150 square metres in its draft local plan in an effort to promote "mixed communities" and discourage "empty super-prime properties".

Westminster: new local plan published for consultation
Westminster: new local plan published for consultation

The Westminster City Plan, published for consultation yesterday, also proposes increasing the council's annual housing target by 40 per cent on its existing local plan figure and raising the affordable housing target to 35 per cent.

The draft plan's policy on housing quality states that all new homes, including conversions, will "at least meet" the government's nationally described space standards (NDSS) and "will not exceed 150 square metres gross internal area except where this is necessary to protect a heritage asset".

The document goes on to say that the upper size limit is "because Westminster’s position in the global housing market can create demand for super-size properties which underoptimise development of Westminster’s scarce land resource". 

It says the 150 square metre limit is 12 square metres above the highest minimum standard in the NDSS and 50 per cent higher than the average size of a private market tenure home in Westminster, currently 100 square metres.

It adds: "It will still enable generously sized homes to be developed to meet development from the prime market, but balances that against the other, more strategic housing need of the city." 

Westminster Council cabinet member for placeshaping and planning Richard Beddoe said: "We want Westminster to be home to thriving, mixed communities, not empty super-prime properties. That’s why we will be restricting the size of new luxury apartments.

"Building the right type of homes for people to live in is priority number one in our City Plan. There’s a national crisis and we have to play our part in fixing that."

According to the council, the new housing target of 1,495 new homes per year matches the requirement under the government's new standard housing need methodology, which was introduced in July's revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF)

It compares to the target of 1,068 homes a year in the council's current local plan - an increase of 427 homes a year - and 1,010 homes a year in the draft New London Plan.

The plan also proposes that all new housing of more than ten units or covering 0.5 hectares or more must provide 35 per cent affordable housing on-site. This compares to the current threshold of 30 per cent .

Off-site provision or payments will only be accepted in "exceptional cases", it adds, and providing it meets strict criteria.

The draft policy states that 60 per cent of affordable housing provision will be for "intermediate" affordable housing for rent and sale, with 40 per cent for social and affordable rent.

According to the council, the aim of its support for "intermediate" affordable housing is to increase provision for "middle-income families", with "most average earners unable to find a place to live in the city".

The plan also proposes: 

  • Delivering new business floor space to accommodate 75,000 new jobs.
  • A new extra bedroom policy to, in Beddoe's words, "make it easier for families to extend their homes so they have enough space to stay living in Westminster and are not forced to move out".
  • Ensuring new major developments are air quality neutral. 
  • Supporting the roll-out of electric vehicle charging points, with all new developments that generate a car parking space required to provide charging points.
  • Creating more green and open space.

Westminster Council's neighbouring authority, the City of London Corporation, published its draft local plan earlier this month.

More information on City Plan 2019 – 2040 can be found here .

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