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GLA revisits planning framework to tackle London housing shortage

The Greater London Authority (GLA) will revisit an old planning framework as it prepares a new strategy to tackle housing shortages in London

Richard Blakeway told AJ sister title Construction News that the GLA would be looking into London’s 33 ‘Opportunity Areas’, as part of its new housing strategy, which is expected to be published at the end of the month.

The Opportunity Areas framework was a concept brought forward by the mayor in his London Plan strategy in 2009.

He is now re-emphasising the need to focus on these areas through his document 2020 vision: The Greatest City on Earth, which puts housing and infrastructure at the heart of his plans for growth in the capital.

Croydon, Elephant and Castle, Heathrow, Paddington and Victoria are among the locations identified as opportunity areas for future growth.

The framework has identified brownfield locations within London that have capacity for new housing, commercial and other large-scale development.

It also highlighted 10 ‘Intensification Areas’ throughout the capital, which are built-up areas with good existing or potential public transport links that could support development at higher densities.

These include Canada Water/Surrey Quays, Dalston, Haringey and Holborn.

Blakeway also told Construction News the GLA would be exploring alternative ways of freeing up public sector land, including that owned by the GLA and other public bodies such as NHS holdings.

He added that the strategy would take account of the major increase in population across the UK and projections over London’s growth, and will identify the need for a significant uplift in housebuilding to accommodate this.

Wates Living Space managing director Andy Hobart said he was ‘very supportive of the public sector land focus’ being taken by the GLA.

‘It has always seemed to us that one of the biggest assets that the GLA and local and central government have got is land,’ he added.

‘Flexible ways of putting land into deals such as deferring land receipts, particularly if at the root of this is the need to address affordable housing component of the market as one of the key elements, we would be massively strong supporters of.’

But he stressed the need for any strategy to be consistent and backed with cross-borough and cross-party consensus.

Berkeley Group highlighted three main issues surrounding public sector land.

The housebuilder insisted that local authorities should be explicitly guided to use OJEU only where it was necessary to avoid lengthy and expensive bidding processes, which add cost and delay the release of sites as well as limiting the number of interested parties.

A spokesman added that the decision on disposals should prioritise speed of housebuilding delivery and the quality of land as much as price, and that the public sector should focus on the release of small sites which can be delivered quickly as well as the major projects.

An estimated 277,240 new housing units are due to be created in London between 2013 and 2022 but demand will outstrip this figure by 48 per cent, according to research published by Knight Frank in June.

But the London Assembly Liberal Democrat group has warned that the mayor needs to double his investment in affordable homes to meet demand and clear the housing backlog.

Speaking to Construction News, EC Harris head of residential, regeneration and growth Richard Jones said discussions within the housing sector had moved on from demand to supply due to initiatives such as Help to Buy and added that any focus on issues such as planning or land sites was welcome.

He added that land was particular scarce in London, with sites in the private sector ‘beginning to come at quite a premium’, leading to landowners looking to maximise the benefits of these projects.

He said that ultimately the initiative has to go back to government to make public sector land more available.

However, Mr Jones said the problem for government historically with unused brownfield sites was that many were unviable development options. He added that the success of its new housing strategy would depend on this issue being taken into account.

London growth:

33 Opportunity Areas include:

Croydon, Earls Court & West Kensington, Elephant and Castle, Euston, Greenwich Peninsular, Heathrow, King’s Cross, London Bridge & Bankside, Paddington, Vauxhall, Nine Elms & Battersea, and Victoria.

10 Intensification Areas:

Canada Water/Surrey Quays, Dalston, Farringdon/Smithfield, Hampstead Interchange, Haringey, Heartlands/Wood Green, Harrow & Wealdstone, Holborn, Kidbrooke, Mill Hill, East South Wimbledon/Colliers, Wood West.

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