• Murray promises SPG clarity

Deputy mayor for housing James Murray has promised new planning guidance on viability, private rental, and affordable homes in the next month.
In an interview at the RESI conference, Murray said supplementary planning guidance would be issued covering several key issues. On viability, there would be greater clarity on what was acceptable, while a new City Hall team gets up to speed to support boroughs in processing viability claims. “We want to speed it up,” he said of the process.
Murray said that mayor Sadiq Khan’s 50% affordable housing aspiration remained a long term strategic target. He would be looking to set the standard in new public sites as they are released, while for private developments there would be a gradual move to increase the percentage.
A new site released by Transport for London was, he said, a demonstration that 50% affordable would be regularly delivered on public sector sites across the capital. He said the target would be exceeded on some developments, and missed on others, depending on what was appropriate for individual schemes.
Quizzed by BBC home editor Mark Easton on allowing development on the green belt, Murray was clear that it would remain protected. “It’s not a question of total freedom,” he said. The additional development would need to be on existing sites: “It does mean coming up with new typologies for dense development.” and that did not simply mean tall towers, but developing designs for mid-height mansion blocks, for example.
Murray said he was keen to ensure that planning permissions are executed. He said that he felt statistics often included large sites, where construction work was progressing on a phased basis, but nonetheless “we need to find a way to ensure permissions can be built.”
The private rental sector will have an increasing role in the market, Murray acknowledged, and will be valuable in helping deliver housing more quickly than private sector developments for sale. “Some of the considerations haven’t really settled yet,” he noted, while local authorities were not all on the same page, when it came to considering the format. The upcoming SPG would offer “a clear and consistent approach to build to rent,” and “a framework to support applications”. When questioned on discounted market rents, he said that submarket rent could be part of a PRS approval package, and counted towards affordable housing provision.

LPA Perspective: Murray appears to have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, to carve out his approach. He appeared much clearer on policy than when he was quizzed at a previous GLA committee.
The planning and development community will look forward to the guidance from the SPG; as Argent’s Robert Evans noted, he has identified no less than nine types of affordable housing, on his company’s King’s Cross development – and the sector needs clarity about which it can count, ideally on a London-wide basis, when designing new schemes.

Picture credit – Property Week

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