• Mayoral manifesto puts planning to the fore

Leading property professionals in central London have given the capital’s next mayor a steer on where they see the key planning issues, if the city is to continue to accommodate more people, and create more jobs.
A 25 point “manifesto for the mayor” launched by the Westminster Property Association, and City Property Association, lists a series of recommendations for the incoming city leader. They say bold moves are needed, to tackle the housing crisis while ensuring space for employment continues to be provided; and to make sure that vital supporting infrastructure is also planned for.
The intervention from the developers’ associations comes as the mayoral candidates stake out their claims, ahead of the election in May 2016. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith and Labour’s Sadiq Khan are the most high profile applicants, while a range of personalities from George Galloway to Sandi Toksvig have indicated they may stand.
The manifesto calls for an integrated approach that promotes many more homes, while preserving employment space and ensuring connectivity to keep commuting practical. There are infrastructure and local environmental challenges, while the proposals also note the need for ensuring employees have the right skills.
The WPA and CPA also believe London should have greater financial autonomy.
“Whilst the housing crisis is rightly recognised as one of the key challenges facing the next Mayor, London is also facing a commercial crisis through the loss of office space to residential, especially across Central London,” said WPA chairman Daniel Van Gelder, who is also director of Exemplar Properties.
“Therefore it is vital that the next Mayor not only stops the loss of crucial employment space, but also actively works with the property industry to increase overall supply. Not only that, our manifesto also calls on the next Mayor to encourage intense development around the proposed Crossrail 2 stations and actively lobbies the Government to retain and spend London’s Right to Buy receipts within the capital.”
On housing, the manifesto suggests intensifying densities, particularly around rail hubs – with an idea to get boroughs to bid for the rights to Crossrail 2 stations, by coming up with imaginative redevelopment proposals.
It calls for easier access to capital for local authorities, to encourage them to build homes, and suggests local planning authorities ought to be given more flexibility on affordable housing contributions, so that projects “will actually get built”. Allied to this, the idea of a London-wide approach to developer contributions is floated, which the manifesto believes could maximise the number of homes built.
Commuter connectivity is key, says the manifesto, which calls on the boroughs to improve routes “To allow people to commute easily and cheaply into central London”. It also calls on the new mayor to support Crossrail 2, and aviation capacity enhancements.
One area where the manifesto calls for big change, is in London’s finances. “London should have more responsibility for its own governance, particularly in raising and spending local tax in London,” says the document. The WPA and CPA largely back the proposals of the London Finance Commission, which suggested relaxing borrowing limits, to allow local authorities to build more housing; devolve property taxes, including stamp duty, and allow local authorities to set levels of fees for services such as planning application processing.

LPA Perspective: There will be plenty of campaigning between now and next May, when Londoners will finally get to choose the replacement for Boris Johnson. Right now, Goldsmith and Khan appear to be making the running.
Currently, Johnson’s most visible transport legacy, his cycle super highways, are being busily laid out across London’s crowded streets. But Johnson has also brought his power to bear on some bigger planning issues; and there are high hopes that elsewhere within the GLA machine, progress is being made on items such as housing provision.
The manifesto is full of sensible ideas, some easy for the mayor to implement, others requiring tougher lobbying. Density around stations is clearly a logical way to improve housing and commercial provision, and it is something that others are supportive of: let’s hope it can be made to happen. The recent Paddington tower proposal from Sellar and Piano is one example, while Waterloo is another opportunity waiting to happen.
The London-wide approach to affordable homes makes sense, and is effectively a broadening of the approach already taken by the Corporation of London, and Westminster. The former often passes affordable housing contributions to eastern boroughs, arguing there is no room in the City for social housing or the infrastructure in terms of education and health, that such homes would need. Westminster already regularly allows affordable housing provision to be supplied some streets away from a development, and also lets developers contribute sites elsewhere in the borough.

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