Green influence on the London Plan
The Mayor is putting together a new London Plan and, ever since we were elected, we’ve been putting forward good ideas and asking for new policies and changes to what he is proposing.
The London Plan is the major planning document for London, setting out the rules for new developments across the city, and it can have a huge influence on people’s lives if we get these right.
We’ve published two major reports: Towards a new London Plan in 2016 and our response to the draft London Plan in early 2018. We’ve also separately made demands about these issues in response to the Mayor’s draft strategies on Housing, Environment, Health Inequalities, and Economic Development.
And we’ve had a big influence on the policies as they have been developed and amended by the Mayor’s team. I think it’s fair to say no other party in City Hall has had anything like this impact on the plan. Here’s 16 things we’ve successfully got changed and improved in a big way (there are others), and 12 areas where the Mayor still has more to do.
Some big Green successes in the London Plan:
1. Community involvement in planning, and Neighbourhood Forums, have now been included in new requirements on councils and developers, after having been left out of the draft.
2. New policies to keep privately owned public spaces free of arbitrary rules, and a promised new Public London Charter to govern them
3. A much tighter definition of what ‘affordable’ means, and what counts towards targets is in the new amendments to the draft plan. The Government’s dodgy definition at up to 80 per cent of market rates has – after several harsh pushes from us – been effectively removed from policies that define what makes the grade.
4. Social housing that is demolished now needs to be replaced on an ‘identical’ basis in terms of rents, units and space with much improved wording in new amendments after our complaints.
5. Policies that preserve industrial and workspace, after the last Mayor allowed a huge decline and the policy proposals leading up to the plan from Sadiq Khan were also set to let vital manufacturing and support industry spaces wither away. Our policy proposals were based firmly on fantastic work by Jenny Jones before we took over.
6. Sports facilities protection has been improved – they now can’t be lost if there is an assessed local need for them. I proposed this change after developers wriggled out on appeal from being prevented from demolishing an indoor bowling club in my council ward, which could have been repurposed to fill gaps in indoor sports provision locally.
7. A major new policy for the provision of exhibition and conference space. This was left out of the draft and campaigners from Earl’s Court (where the area’s businesses have suffered since the closure of the exhibition centre) worked hard with us to get this put back in.
8. A big new commitment from the Mayor to meet World Health Organisation air pollution limits not just EU targets.
9. The social and educational value of green spaces is now recognised in policies that protect them, after we took up calls from CPRE London to improve this policy.
10. Previously just vaguely defined ‘green corridors’, policies now protect real ‘ecological corridors’ and require a net biodiversity gain from new developments.
11. Green energy now needs to be ‘maximised’ in developments rather than just being recommended for inclusion in energy plans. This is very strong new wording that will help get much more green energy included in new buildings from the start.
12. Trees and green infrastructure are now recommended for their cooling properties in new policies to reduce the ‘heat island’ effect in a warming city.
13. Water Management Strategies are now included as requirements for developments in flood risk areas and sites with water insecurity.
14. Cycle parking at higher rates than the Londonwide policy can now be introduced by councils that have evidence that more is needed, as we requested.
15. Central London now has a higher walking, cycling and public transport mode share target of 95 per cent, which we asked for, rather than the 80 per cent London average. Extra policies have also been added that will contribute to central London being nearly car free, with no new car parking spaces for housing developments and strong controls on workplace parking.
16. Most excitingly, embodied carbon – an important new concept for planning – is included for the first time, with a requirement to measure the whole life-cycle carbon impact of development.
Planning policies where the Mayor has more to do and we’ll push him:
1. Requirements for social and affordable housing are not ‘net’ – which means developers could just replace homes they demolish and add market priced homes without adding any net new housing Londoners really need.
2. While embodied carbon is included and a diagram showing a hierarchy with refurbishment at the top is included in the plan, the policies nowhere preference re-using buildings or ask developers to avoid demolition where possible. This is a big gap in the policies so far.
3. We asked for the good new tenure-blind policies for housing, avoiding ‘poor doors’, to also include integrated playgrounds, so that children from market and affordable housing will play together in new developments and not be separated. So far, the Mayor has not taken this up from our response to the draft.
4. For small sites suitable for development, we asked that local communities should be asked to assess them and put forward ideas for what could be built, in local ‘land commissions’. Despite more policies for community engagement in opportunity areas and larger development sites, no changes have been made to include this idea.
5. We asked for targets to be set for affordable work, business and office space, to help small businesses. But the Mayor has not carried out any research to set a strategic target for London for affordable workspace – nor has he asked boroughs to do this. Without a target, developers are very unlikely to provide any affordable business space at all.
6. We’ve campaigned from the start for a Student Living Rent. After pressing the Mayor we have won requirements for a proportion of student accommodation to be affordable in the new London Plan, but we strongly believe that the Mayor’s definition of this at 55 per cent of the maximum maintenance loan is too high.
7. To protect clusters of businesses that are important for diverse groups and communities, such as the Latin Elephant and Wards Corner clusters of ibero-american businesses or LGBT cultural businesses in particular areas, we asked the Mayor to set out policies to protect what we call ’emerging heritage’. So far this concept has not been included in the economy or heritage policies.
8. We proposed a policy preventing new advertising hoardings from being given planning permission if they are within 400 metres of schools, which has been rejected because the Mayor’s team think it would cover too much of London. What’s the problem with that, we ask?
9. Our proposal for protection for allotments to be extended to urban farms and community food growing spaces has been ignored.
10. The list of planned transport schemes still includes dangerous, traffic-generating new road crossing schemes in east London, like the Silvertown Tunnel, which should be cancelled.
11. The Mayor’s aviation policy still says it will “support the case for additional aviation capacity in the south east of England”. We have demanded this whole policy is changed to resist expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or any other airport around London. The Mayor is very hypocritical to be opposing Heathrow but letting City Airport expand (we want this one closed to put housing in instead!)and backing a new Gatwick runway.
12. Finally, the Mayor’s climate targets are still based on becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. We know from the recent IPCC report that all our targets urgently need to be brought forward to 2030 to avoid the risk of going over a 1.5C rise in global temperatures, and we have got the Assembly to agree in a motion to urge the Mayor to declare a climate emergency and make new plans and targets.
Throughout all this we’ve argued for a better process, asking the Mayor to make the plans citizen-led and inclusive, with a formal Statement of Community Involvement, as put forward by the fantastic organisation Just Space, which has helped many hundreds of Londoners to engage with the process and win changes – you can follow their continuing involvement in the London Plan as it goes for examination this month here: www.justspace.org.uk