Westminster to submit City Plan with ramped up green and affordable housing policies

Westminster City Council is to submit its new draft City Plan for examination after a consultation last year prompted changes including a relaxed maximum size limit on new homes plus stronger environmental and affordable housing targets.

Westminster: local plan to be submitted for examination
Westminster: local plan to be submitted for examination

Members of the full council last night voted to support submitting the draft plan to the Planning Inspectorate.

Policies including a requirement for commercial schemes to make affordable housing contributions and a ban on the development of "super-size properties" have been retained from the plan’s consultation draft.

Office developments of more than 1,000 square metres will be expected to provide between 15 and 35 per cent of their floorspace as affordable housing. Hotels will be required to make a 15 per cent contribution.

No new homes of more than 200 square metres will be allowed, except in cases "where a larger unit is needed to ensure the protection of a heritage asset". The limit has been increased from 150 square metres as proposed when the policy was first floated.

Minor modifications to the consultation draft plan include additional text reflecting a recent decision by Westminster City Council to declare a climate emergency and commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

The plan now states: "This target will inform everything we do as we strive to meet the challenges of climate change and deliver a carbon neutral city."

Over the next 20 years, in addition to "dramatically" improving air quality, the authority states in the plan that "our CO2 emissions will be near zero".

Stronger wording has also been adopted in relation to housing provision, with the plan now stating that "at least" 22,222 homes will be delivered up to 2040 "of which at least" 35 per cent will be affordable. The housing target equates to 1,495 new homes per year for ten years, which is the same as in the earlier draft.

Estate regeneration schemes will be expected to "deliver 50% affordable housing on public land where viable", the plan states, rather than a 35 per cent target in the consultation draft.

According to the council, the new city plan includes a "clearer policy on tall buildings that rules them out across most of the city – with most new developments to match surrounding skyline".

Richard Beddoe, deputy leader and cabinet member for planning at Westminster City Council, said: "Our new City Plan will pave the way to more homes, business growth and a greener city - striking a balance between conservation and the need to support more housing and jobs in the heart of the capital."

Sarah Bevan, programme director for planning at business group London First, said: "We are concerned that the plan risks undermining Westminster’s role as a commercial, cultural and political centre."

She said the draft plan, which aims to create new business floor space for 63,000 new jobs, "could be more ambitious about the growth in jobs in Westminster", adding that "there should be an overall target for employment growth in the borough, not just a target for office jobs".

In addition, tall buildings "remain generally unacceptable within Westminster except in the opportunity and housing renewal areas", she said, which could undermine the draft new London Plan’s proposed 'Good Growth' strategy.

Bevan noted that the latest version of the plan has removed a 30 metre reference in its definition of a tall building and instead now defines them as structures that are twice the prevailing height context, "which is helpful". 


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