MHCLG calls for London Plan to drop 'garden-grabbing' and small sites contribution policies

The government has called for changes to the emerging new London Plan to strengthen restrictions on so-called 'garden-grabbing' infill development and to remove a policy that it said could allow boroughs to request affordable housing contributions from schemes of 10 homes or less.

City Hall, London: London Plan examination on-going
City Hall, London: London Plan examination on-going

In a submission to the on-going examination in public of the new draft London Plan, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) flagged concerns over the document’s proposed policies on developing small sites for housing.

The subject was tackled at an examination hearing at City Hall yesterday.

The new London Plan contains a "presumption in favour of small housing developments between one and 25 homes".

This includes support for "infill development within the curtilage of a house", to be set "within the scale" of permitted development (PD) rights allowing householders to extend their homes.

But the MHCLG submission expressed "concern" that the approach was "not consistent with national policy". It said this was because the PD rights "are there for homeowners to use for their own property and uses, rather than for the creation of new properties with new and additional occupants".

It said the "London Plan could address the government’s concerns by removing the presumption in favour of infill development within the curtilage of a house."

When the draft new London Plan was published, mayor Sadiq Khan was accused of "waging war" on the outer London boroughs who protested that the infill policy would legalise "garden-grabbing". 

As part of the same response, MHCLG also flagged concerns that policy H2 H of the London Plan is "not consistent" with policies in the NPPF "as it is seen to enable or encourage boroughs to apply affordable housing contributions to developments of 10 units or fewer".

Policy H2 H states that boroughs "wishing to apply affordable housing requirements to sites capable of delivering ten units or fewer and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000 squre metres should only require this through a tariff approach to off-site contributions rather than seeking on-site contributions".

MHCLG said its concerns could be resolved by "removing the suggestion of setting S106 requirements for developments of 10 units of less".

"In line with the government’s reason for introducing this national policy, this would be expected to increase housing delivery," the submission said.

Last week, MHCLG criticised the London Plan's ten-year housing targets for boroughs, saying they conflict with the NPPF. 

separate MHCLG submission to the examination said it did not believe the plan's existing strategic housing market assessment methodology "reflects the full extent of housing need in London to tackle affordability problems".

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