New report details the “radical” changes needed in planning for London

A new report calls for a radical planning shake-up to solve London’s housing crisis. The author claims this could “professionalise decision-making” in the planning system, while increasing the supply of land suitable for housebuilding, and allow substantially greater densities of homes in the capital. The paper, written by former policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, Sir Mark Boleat, identifies the shortage of developable land and the planning system as the major hindrances to housebuilding in the capital. In the report, he demands action to force local authorities, central Government, the health service and transport bodies to stop holding on to surplus space, or face financial penalties.

He also indicates that building must take place in much greater concentration, pointing to central London’s population density being little more than half of central Paris, and well below the figures for central Tokyo and Manhattan. Boleat also dispels some common “myths” as to why there is a shortage of housing in London. These include the idea that foreign buyers are to blame for the

housing shortage in London, and that there is enough brownfield land alone to meet demand in the capital, as well as the notion that with more housing must necessarily also come the provision of extra funding for additional public services. Sir Mark explained that the “same old answers to the same old perceived problems” will not bring the country out of its housing crisis, indicating that radical change must be enacted. He says in the report: “Housing is the number one domestic policy challenge of our age. The crisis in the capital is harming London’s competitiveness and fostering inter-generational unfairness. “Our problem is not foreign buyers, a decline in council housebuilding or developers sitting on undeveloped land. Nor do more homes necessarily have to come with more public service provision, as to some extent we are talking about providing the housing required for the existing population. Conventional wisdom has led to perceived solutions – and these solutions are wrong because the real problems have not been correctly identified.

“The principal reason why the supply of


1. An evidence-based debate needs to be started, including recognition that there are trade-offs

2. There needs to be recognition that the problem will not be solved by building on brownfield land alone

3. Recognition is required that the higher the tax on housebuilding through planning obligations, the fewer houses will be built. 30 per cent of a large number can be much higher than 50 per cent of a small number

4. A change of policy towards land use, including the Green Belt, and permit- ting higher densities

5. Strong penalties on public sector bodies that fail to release surplus land

6. Planning conditions to be reduced significantly, costed and deemed to be discharged within seven days of certification by the developer, unless the local authority has clear evidence

that the conditions have not been complied with

7. Ensuring that planning decisions made at local authority level are joined up with wider Governmental policy objectives

8. Planning decisions should be taken by relatively small panels, who have received appropriate training, and representatives of an area in which a development would take place should be excluded from voting on that decision

9. Simplification of the Community Infrastructure Levy and S.106 requirements is needed, and in particular for social housing

10. Political leadership in individual local authorities, without which the problem will never be solved and which is a pre-requisite for addressing the other issues

new homes has not matched rising demand is that the supply of new homes has been restricted by public policy measures. The planning system is the major factor in this regard, and requires radical reform. This paper sets out how we can do just that.” Steve Mansour, CEO of CRL commended the report: “Boleat’s paper cuts through the smoke, mirrors and misconceptions – declaring that a radical reform of public policy is needed to solve the housing crisis”. He concluded: “The current planning system works all too often against the public interest: it must be overhauled. Only then will the construction industry be able to rise to the enormous challenge of building enough homes to meet the huge demand we face as a nation.”


• Policies on land use, particularly in respect of the green belt

• The imposition of a high tax on housebuilders through planning obligations, and a planning system geared to the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, which adds considerably to costs of building housing, including through the imposition of conditions that have to be complied with before building can commence

• The reluctance of public sector bodies to release surplus land

• The complex nature of sites that have the potential to be used for housebuilding

• Inadequate infrastructure provision • The nature of the housebuilding industry, which has become increasingly dominated by a small group of large developers, partly in response to the five previous factors


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