Jenrick blasts Khan over housing delivery and freezes London Plan

The housing secretary has issued a direction preventing the publication of the new London Plan until "inconsistencies with national policy and missed opportunities to increase housing delivery" are rectified.

London mayor Sadiq Khan
London mayor Sadiq Khan

In December, London mayor Sadiq Khan rejected 15 recommendations made by planning inspectors examining the plan, including a recommendation that he drop the plan’s blanket opposition to any development of green belt sites.

Khan produced a revised "intention to publish" (ItP) version of the plan, which he submitted to central government in December alongside a letter explaining his decisions.

In a letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan issued today, housing secretary Robert Jenrick criticises Khan’s record on housing delivery in the capital.

"Housing delivery in London under your mayoralty has been deeply disappointing, over the last three years housing delivery has averaged just 37,000 a year; falling short of the existing plan target and well below your assessment of housing need", Jenrick said.

The secretary of state said that, due to "the number of the inconsistencies with national policy and missed opportunities to increase housing delivery" within the plan, he was directing that the mayor cannot publish the plan until he has made a range of changes to the document.

Jenrick said that he was directing the mayor to "work constructively with ambitious London boroughs and my department to encourage and support the delivery of boroughs which strive to deliver more housing";

He also said he wanted the mayor to take a "more proportionate stance" with regards to the loss of industrial land for housing - "removing the ‘no net loss’ requirement on existing industrial land sites whilst ensuring boroughs bring new industrial land into the supply".

Elsewhere, Jenrick said that he wanted the mayor to commit to "maximising" housing delivery by:

  • supporting "ambitious boroughs to go beyond your plan targets to bring them closer to delivering housing demand;
  • carrying out a "programme of work, with my department, to kick-start stalled strategic sites; including bringing forward later-stage strategic land from your strategic housing land availability assessment." Jenrick added: "If you are unable to persuade me that you can deliver the most significant sites, such as Old Oak Common, I will consider all options for ensuring delivery";
  • collaborating with public agencies "to identify new sources of housing supply, including developing a more active role for Homes England";
  • "actively encouraging appropriate density, including optimising new capacity above and around stations; and producing and delivering a new strategy with authorities in the wider South East to offset unmet housing need in a joined-up way".

A spokesman for the mayor of London said: "The mayor makes no apologies for trying to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the capital while at the same time protecting and enhancing the green belt.

"The secretary of state is trying to run roughshod over the mayor’s efforts to finalise a London Plan, which will deliver for Londoners and deliver on pledges from the mayor’s manifesto. The secretary of state needs to realise that London is best served by the government devolving further funding and powers to the capital to build the affordable homes it urgently needs, instead of taking this heavy-handed approach."

Claire Dutch, planning partner at law firm Ashurst, commented: "The tone of the secretary of state’s letter leaves no doubt about the message - the draft London Plan is not ambitious enough. The government wants a greater push on optimising density and has liberally applied its red pen to amend many of the mayor’s pet policies. These include a removal of the requirement of no net loss of industrial floorspace and a toning down of the policies against development in the green belt to align with national planning policy.

"The mayor’s options now are limited. He needs to accept the amendments or withdraw the plan and go back to the drawing board. More delay and uncertainty in the publication of the capital’s most important policy document is not helpful for the provision of much needed housing and infrastructure."

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