Is the new London Plan imminent?
Our Head of London Planning Jeff Field comments on the draft new London plan
Could the end to uncertainty on the London-wide planning policy be coming to an end? Four years on and the draft new London Plan it is now with the Secretary of State, with final changes made following the Panel’s recommendations.
If it gets rubber-stamped by the Secretary of State – expected to be on or before 17 February - it will end a period of planning uncertainty for London’s property industry with fluid policies not being good for the market.
And the signs are positive. Of the 55 changes recommended by the Panel, 40 have been accepted in part or in full by the GLA. When asked at a London First event, held at BNP Paribas Real Estate’s offices, Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor Planning, Regeneration & Skills, said the recommendations the GLA had pushed back on were areas in line with the new Conservative Government’s policies.
But nothing is certain in politics or planning.
The aim is to get the Plan adopted by March before the pre-election period and before the Mayoral election in May which would otherwise frustrate this timeline.
An area of previous housing growth – industrial land - has attracted intense scrutiny and is leading to an interesting approach whilst seeking to maintain employment land. The importance of industrial use for the city is recognised in a way it was not 10 years ago but there will not be a blanket protection of land.
“We don’t want to preserve in aspic exactly what is there now,” commented Pipe.
Rather, the recommendation is for more efficient use of the land with multi-level buildings, intensification and co-location of uses where appropriate ensuring no net loss of protected industrial floorspace capacity.
BNP RE is already working on schemes which will see more innovative design and development to maximise space. And some of the London boroughs are grasping industrial use as part of a mixed-use development but having it outlined in an adopted policy will greatly help.
Moving design into the digital age
The world is now digital, the public has smartphones and is used to having more information at their fingertips. So, the fact that the GLA is talking about using design tools such as 3D modelling to help consider the impact of development, is welcomed.
Some local authorities now have the skills in house to review 3D models and it is something that will particularly benefit larger schemes, enhancing public consultation events so that people can see developments from more than a few angles.
With placemaking so important, this technology allows the public to ‘walk’ through a scheme, to see how it might feel in terms of the open space, public realm and the level of ground floor activity.
Digital 3D modelling will bring more transparency to the planning process, removing potential criticisms; if you can show development from every ‘view’ then this would remove public suspicion - nothing is hidden.
It can only be good for engaging the public and for the planning process as a whole.