Nine things you need to know about Khan's response to the London Plan inspectors

This week, London mayor Sadiq Khan published his response to the recommendations made by a panel of inspectors who examined the draft London Plan earlier this year. The plan is now being considered by the secretary of state who has the power to intervene and amend the document if he wishes. Here are nine things you need to know about Khan's response.

London Plan: Khan publishes response to inspectors. Image: Flcikr / fsse8info
London Plan: Khan publishes response to inspectors. Image: Flcikr / fsse8info

1. Khan agreed to a 20 per cent reduction in the plan’s overall housing target. The London mayor agreed to reduce the plan’s ten-year housing target from 649,350 homes to 522,850, or 52,285 homes per year. In a letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, Khan said: "I have accepted this recommendation … However, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am committed to delivering more of the homes that Londoners need." He added: "The revised housing target remains ambitious and represents a step-change from that set out in the current London Plan." 

2. A target for housing delivery on small sites has been more than halved. Small sites are now expected to accommodate 119,250 homes over the plan period, down from 245,730. However, these figures are now described as "minimum" rates of delivery rather than targets that boroughs should "seek to achieve". In his letter to the housing secretary, Khan stressed that his approach to housing delivery will "include making much greater use of small sites across the capital".

3. The mayor declined to commit to a green belt review. Khan rejected a call from the inspectors that this should be conducted as part of the next London Plan review, claiming that to do so "pre-judges any future spatial strategy and risks undermining the objectives and delivery of this plan". However, the mayor agreed to amend the plan so it now states that it "does not meet all of London’s identified development needs. Work will need to be undertaken to explore the potential options for meeting this need sustainably in London and beyond."

4. A blanket ban on green belt development has been retained. The inspectors advised that the policy was "not consistent with national policy". Nevertheless, Khan declined to amend the plan to indicate that green belt development would be accepted in "very special circumstances" and the alteration of green belt boundaries in "exceptional circumstances". "The mayor does not consider there to be an inconsistency with national policy," he said. "The strong emphasis on the green belt is considered justified in order to help prevent urban sprawl."

5. Khan declined to weaken his stance on Heathrow expansion. The mayor dismissed calls to remove a policy stating that he will "oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport unless it can be shown that no additional noise or air quality harm would result, and that the benefits of future regulatory and technology improvements would be fairly shared with affected communities". The mayor said he considered that the London Plan is "not inconsistent with national policy and can operate alongside the Airports National Policy Statement".

6. The mayor will lead a London-wide review of need for Gypsy and traveller pitches. Khan has also included a commitment to "work to support boroughs in finding ways to make provision for Gypsy and traveller accommodation". However, he rejected the inspectors’ recommendation that the plan’s definition of Gypsies and travellers should be amended in line with national policy, choosing to adopt a broader definition on the basis that the government’s definition "excludes many Gypsies and travellers".

7. Policies on the borough-by-borough release of industrial land remain unchanged. The inspectors said the mayor should review his verdict on which boroughs should retain industrial capacity and those that may allow "limited release" of industrial land, calling for "a more positive strategic framework for the provision of industrial capacity". The mayor declined to do so, stating: "The plan goes further than simply recommending the retention of existing industrial capacity and sets a strategic framework to enable and support innovative ways of providing additional capacity." The plan's policy E4 says there should be "no net loss of industrial floorspace capacity" within London's designated "strategic industrial locations" or "locally significant industrial sites".

8. Site-specific viability testing may be allowed where local policies are out of date. The plan states that "viability testing should normally only be undertaken on a site-specific basis where there are clear circumstances creating barriers to delivery". The aim is to make it harder for developers to test viability on specific sites. Khan accepted the inspectors’ recommendation that the policy be amended to indicate that it will only apply in boroughs "where relevant policies in local plans are up to date".

9. Khan has maintained a ban on fracking in London. Inspectors said the plan’s "blanket restriction on the exploration, appraisal or production of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing" was "fundamentally inconsistent with the direction of national policy". Khan declined to soften his stance. "The mayor is strongly opposed to the exploration and production of shale gas in London and considers it is vital to have a London wide planning policy on this and that this is justified," he said. "The policy is considered to be consistent with legislation and the Government’s position." In November, the Tory government announced the immediate introduction of a moratorium on fracking.

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