London Plan accepted in principle by Panel of Inspectors
5 November 2019
"It is envisaged the ‘Intend to Publish’ version of the Plan will be sent to the Secretary of State and subsequently published by the end of the year."
Following the Examination in Public held between 15th January and 22nd May 2019, the London Plan Panel of Inspectors has now issued its report and recommendations on the capital’s overarching strategic planning document to the Mayor. The plan has been accepted in principle, subject to a series of modifications recommended by the Panel.
The Mayor is now considering the report's recommendations and is preparing an ‘Intend to Publish’ version of the London Plan which will be sent to the Secretary of State along with a schedule of the Panel’s recommendation and the Mayor’s response. It is envisaged the ‘Intend to Publish’ version of the Plan will be sent to the Secretary of State and subsequently published by the end of the year.
If the Mayor wishes to publish the London Plan without accepting any of the Panel’s recommendations, he will be required to send a statement of his reasons to the Secretary of State before so doing. The Secretary of State has powers to instruct that modifications are made to the Plan to remove any inconsistency with national policy or any detriment to areas outside of London.
Key recommendations relating to the content of the consolidated version of the Plan, published in August 2018, are as follows:
Whilst there were no issues with affordable housing policies, the Panel has recommended that the Mayor should cut his controversial small-site housing target by more than half, from 245,730 homes to 119,250 over ten years, after inspectors found that targets were not "realistically achievable" and "not justified". The Inspectors noted that the previous targets required a massive uplift in delivery, especially in outer London boroughs which were considered “highly unlikely to occur based on available evidence” and past completion rates.
In fact, 22 of the 35 boroughs (63 per cent) have seen their small-site target reduced by over half, with the largest reductions of over 90 per cent in Havering, Bexley, Barnet, Enfield, Kingston, Sutton, Bromley and Richmond.
As a consequence of this change to the small sites policy, the overall housing target for boroughs to deliver a total of 649,350 dwellings has also reduced by almost 20 per cent to 522,850.
Meanwhile, City of London, Islington and the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation have no proposed changes to their housing targets.
Although these revised housing targets now fail to meet the identified annual need of 66,000 homes in London by some margin, the Inspectors concluded it was preferable to not pause the publication of the Plan for further work to be undertaken, to avoid considerable delay and knock-on effects to other Local Plans.
Partly due to the fact that the capital can no longer meet much of its housing need on small sites, the report calls for “a strategic and comprehensive review of the Green Belt in London as part of the next review of the Plan”.
The report also recommends changes to Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land policies, which are considered “inconsistent with national policy” without recognising development in the Green Belt can be permitted in ‘very special circumstances’.
Consideration is also being given to identifying locations for industrial development, as part of a future London-wide Green Belt review. There are calls to strengthen industrial, storage and distribution area policies “to make it clear that sufficient supply of industrial land and premises should be provided as well as maintained”. This is because evidence has shown there is likely to be a need for more industrial land in order to meet future demand.
Recommendations, therefore, seek to strengthen policy to help protect non-designated industrial sites and call for further consideration on the categorisation of boroughs for the provision of industrial capacity.
Inspectors have requested that the Mayor modifies its policy concerning viability, to make it clearer that “the requirements relating to site specific viability assessments only apply where relevant policies in local plans are up to date”, in accordance with national policy.
“...it is only where there is an up to date local plan in place supported by appropriate viability evidence, that we would expect full weight to be given to the assumption that planning applications that fully comply with all relevant development plan policies are viable”.
Inspectors also noted their concern over the effectiveness of the London Plan Viability Study (LPVS) at local level, stating, “Proportionate viability assessments at local plan level will almost certainly need to go into considerably more detail than the LPVS, including where necessary about key sites, taking account of locally specific evidence. The plan needs to reflect this fact, and the inevitable limitations of a strategic-level viability assessment.”
Where an up to date local plan is in place, applicants should, therefore, refer to local policies on viability, not those of the London Plan, shifting more power to local authorities.
It has been recommended that Policy H9, which concerns the disapplication of the Vacant Building Credit (VBC), is deleted as it is contrary to national policy.
A blanket policy requiring boroughs to refuse fracking applications should be deleted as it is contrary to the direction of national policy.
The Inspectors found that there is clearly a significant immediate need for further gypsy and traveller accommodation provision across London and recommend an assessment is undertaken "as soon as possible as a priority in order to inform an updated London Plan".
The Inspectors have concluded that the duty to cooperate, which requires planning authorities to engage constructively with neighbouring authorities on strategic issues such as housing, does not apply to this London Plan but will “become a much more prominent issue in future” reviews. The Inspectors would also like to see a “more concise spatial development strategy, focussed on strategic outcomes rather than detailed means of implementation, when the plan is next replaced" following concerns about the document’s “length and complexity".
If you would like to discuss how the emerging London Plan could affect you or your organisation, please get in touch on 020 7357 8000.