One in three London boroughs set no social rent homes targets, says TCPA report

Fewer than one in three London boroughs have clearly identified targets for the development of social rent housing, according to a report published this week.

Social housing in Hackney. Image: Edward Betts
Social housing in Hackney. Image: Edward Betts

The report from the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Trust for London - a charity that aims to tackle poverty and inequality in London - analysed local plans for each of the capital’s 32 boroughs, the City of London Corporation and the two mayoral development corporations.

The study found that, while 95 per cent of plans in the capital outlined a broad target for ‘affordable housing’, only 29 per cent had a specific target for social rented housing and distinguished between social rent and more expensive affordable rent, which equates to 80 per cent of the local market rent.

The TCPA described social rent as "the only genuinely affordable housing tenure to people on low incomes".

Two plans out of the 35 made no mention of a target for either affordable or social rental tenures within the wider ‘affordable housing’ category.

While the draft new London Plan includes a strategic target for 50 per cent of all new homes in the capital to be affordable, the analysis found that more than a third of borough local plans require a minimum contribution of 35 per cent affordable housing from new developments.

The findings are published in the report, London - Planning for a Just City, which examines the extent to which local plans in London deal with issues relating to equality and inclusion.

All local planning authorities are required to publish statements outlining the consultation carried out in the development of their local plan. But the study found consultation statements missing from a third of London boroughs’ websites.

Authorities are also required to produce statements of community involvement outlining their approach to community engagement. 

While all local authorities were found to have such statements in place, the report said nearly one in four of these were more than five years old.

Equality impact assessments were found for 80 per cent of local plans. Of those published, only one in three identified potential negative impacts from policies in the borough’s local plan and only one in five clearly outlined how negative impacts would be mitigated.

The analysis also considered whether local plans included policies on poverty reduction, social and economic inequalities, social inclusion and/or social justice. 

Only 23 per cent of plans were found to include "clear and strong wording" on these issues, while a further 46 per cent made reference to these terms but not strongly.

Some councils interviewed as part of the research cited central government "barriers" such as viability requirements and permitted development rights and a lack of funding as factors that undermined local plan policies.

The report calls for built environment institutions to introduce a "duty to ‘do no harm’", which would see practioners abide by a code of conduct that "eliminates harmful planning decisions".

Another recommendation is for funding for community groups to ensure they are better able to engage with and influence planning processes.

Laura Heykoop, projects and policy manager at the TCPA, said: "The research shows that while some local authorities in London are making positive moves to embed equality and inclusion within their local plan policies, the majority are failing to develop planning policy that goes far enough in challenging poverty and inequality. 

"Further to this, processes imposed by government such as viability assessments and the use of permitted development rights then undermine local authorities’ ability to turn even strong and ambitious policies into a reality." 

Earlier this year, Westminster City Council consulted on plans to require affordable housing contributions from office and hotel schemes.

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