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London needs ‘new generation of Metro-lands’ says mayor's design group

London skyline
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A new wave of suburban Metro-lands should form part of the mix of meeting the captial’s housing needs over the coming decades, according to Boris Johnson’s design taskforce

Other ways to increase the delivery of new homes in the capital could include revisiting density rules and exploring ways that housing and light-industrial uses could co-exist on the same sites, the Growing London report says.

Written by the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, which includes Gort Scott’s Fiona Scott, RIBA past president Sunand Prasad and is chaired by Daniel Moylan, the document makes more than 30 recommendations aimed at increasing the delivery of new homes.

It comes against the backdrop of a projected increase of 1.5 million in London’s population by 2030 and an acknowledged need to more than double the amount of new homes to delivered to roughly 50,000 a year over the next two decades.

The report’s authors said there was ‘great potential’ to create ‘new Metro-lands’ both within and outside of Greater London. They said the connectivity offered by the development of Crossrail, Crossrail 2, and High Speed 2 railway could be used in the same way that the Metropolitan Railway did for the capital’s original Metro-lands.

‘The Mayor should therefore investigate how development, in suburban areas of higher accessibility and outside of local designations such as conservation areas, could be made more popular and provide guidance on how it is designed and implemented,’ they said.

A further recommendation called for existing density matrices to be redesigned so that they took into account the cumulative density of a neighbourhood, rather than just an individual development site.

The report said: ’While an area may be of particularly low density and have a surplus of transport infrastructure, this will not be reflected in the potential density of a site. The result can be that schemes do not optimise the full extent of an area’s capacity for growth.’

Elsewhere, the report questioned whether light industry, including small-scale manufacturing and digital fabrication, could be incorporated in new residential areas and developments outside areas currently designated for industrial uses.

‘This could include a programme of capital investment to support innovative building typologies and development models that successfully mix diverse uses,’ it said.

Moylan said it was vital for the capital to make better use of the land it had available but warned there would be an inevitable impact on the way the city looked.

We have to develop more densely

‘We have to develop more densely, and we need to do so within the context of the existing urban fabric and communities,’ he said.

’To absorb this growth in population within the fixed area of London will be no mean task. The physical impacts will be highly evident and ubiquitous – on the ground, underground and on the skyline.

’The impact on London of building homes for nearly 70,000 more people and of accommodating 34,000 new jobs each year is huge. It will affect its built form, its infrastructure, its streets and transport systems, as well as its health and education services.’

The report can be read in full, here.

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