London Publication Plan

8th January 2021

Following our article ‘New Year, New London Plan’, which reports the Secretary of State’s (SoS) response to the Mayor of London’s draft London Plan, on the 21st December 2020 the Mayor sent the Publication version to the SoS.

The Publication Plan starts the 6-week reviewing process of the proposed changes to ensure they are compliant with national planning policy. The date by which the SoS has to respond is 1st February 2021. However, he provided a holding response on 24th December confirming that, with one exception, he would not be raising any further issues with the Publication Plan.

The exception is due to the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement, which allows planning permission to be sought for Heathrow Airport’s expansion. The SoS will need to consider if there are any implications on the London Plan as a result. The Supreme Court has said the Mayor may have to alter the wording of Policy T8 (Aviation). At the moment Part C of the aforementioned policy opposes the expansion of Heathrow unless it can be shown that there will be no noise or air quality implications, which may now be considered to be too negative and restrictive.

To get to this stage the Mayor has already had to make a number of concessions on key policy positions in the London Plan. These include:

  • The recommendation from the Planning Inspector that the London green belt should be reviewed. The Plan originally had strong protectionist policies on development in the green belt but these have been watered down to now comply with national planning policy.
  • The policy that said boroughs should seek affordable housing contributions from small sites which required a cash in lieu contribution is now omitted.
  • The no net loss requirement for industrial floorspace within designated Strategic Industrial Locations and Locally Significant Industrial Sites has been removed.
  • The policy which set out that the Housing Delivery Test should not unfairly penalise boroughs where delivery of homes was constrained for reasons outside their control has also been dropped.

Amongst other changes, the SoS’s Directions encourage the Plan to empower boroughs to choose where tall buildings are built within their communities, in appropriate and clearly defined areas. As part of delivering that objective, a new definition of tall buildings has been included in the Publication Plan, set at 6 storeys or 18m.

The momentum over the past 4 weeks in terms of dialogue between the Mayor and the SoS is not now expected to slow down. With the Mayoral election due to take place on 6th May 2021, the purdah period should begin 6 weeks prior, on 25th March 2021. The SoS has committed to responding to the Mayor’s Publication Plan by the 1st February deadline, so it looks unlikely that he will try to gain political points by delaying the Plan. The Mayor’s objective of adopting the new London Plan within his current term may yet be achievable.

Geoff Megarity, Senior Planner

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