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Rethinking Planning in London
19 September 2018
What do the Government’s updates to the National Planning Policy Framework mean for planning policy in the capital?
London is an exciting global, cosmopolitan city with a buzz that’s second to none. But what’s the point of great culture and nightlife if the housing shortage means people who live and work there can’t find affordable accommodation? With Londoners spending on average 40% of their salary on rent, there’s not much spare for dinner and theatre. (Institute for Fiscal Studies report, October 2017)
Nearly 300,000 people left London over the 12 months to June 2016, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics, number-crunched by the Guardian. Net internal migration – the number of people leaving compared to those arriving – grew to nearly 94,000, the highest for 12 years.
Estate agent Savills says most of the movers were driven away by high property prices. Popular destinations where people are taking advantage of huge price-tag differences in homes to rent or buy outside the capital include Lewes, Exeter and Bristol.
Keeping cities living and working
But migration isn’t always by choice. Sought-after talent, such as teachers and nurses, are being forced by expensive housing to live outside the capital and commute.
A study by Yorkshire Building Society last year shows that other large employment cities, such as Bristol and Birmingham are now more affordable than London, and likely to attract talent. If London wants to keep its staff, it needs to tackle its housing affordability issues urgently.
What do the Government’s updates to the revised National Planning Policy Framework mean in this context?
The framework aims to ‘fix the broken housing market’ with reforms to ensure ‘we get planning for the right homes built in the right places of the right quality at the same time as protecting our environment’.
The innovative role of airspace
‘Making effective use of land’ is a new section in the 2018 framework that includes a paragraph that we feel deserves more attention.
It says planning policies and decisions should support opportunities to use airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes. ‘In particular, they should allow upward extensions where the development would be consistent with the prevailing height and form of neighbouring properties and the overall street scene.’
These proposed new planning freedoms came out of a round-table conference with the Prime Minister, Theresa May, where Apex Airspace presented a report on how London’s airspace could contribute to the land supply issue. It’s not difficult to see why airspace caught her imagination, as well as the Ministry for Housing Communities, local government and the Greater London Authority.
We have sought answers to the housing crisis in many ways in the past, but they all have their downsides. Planning applications for skyscrapers have soared since 2013, changing London’s skyline and not always for the better. Applications for basement conversions and loft conversions have risen dramatically, causing disputes with neighbours over noise and dust.
When Apex Airspace builds on top of homes we do not detrimentally affect the skyline because the buildings are modest additions. Neither do we cause havoc among neighbours. We use off-site manufactured apartments that result in 60% less time spent than traditional forms of construction – and plans are tailored around residents.
Best of all, we can potentially build 120,000 affordable homes above council blocks and housing associations, which can be allocated to people on lower incomes. It means airspace has a significant role to play in easing London’s housing shortage, delivering against the Mayor’s 65,000 homes target, and keeping talent in the city.
Densifying London can be sustainable, Apex are looking to work with London First to promote the density issue in the capital through a series of autumn workshops. If you would like more information about these workshops, please contact email@example.com