London Plan

MQT on 2017-12-14
Session date: 
December 14, 2017
Question By: 
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will London's buildings be better in ten years' time?



Answer for London Plan

Answer for London Plan

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  Yes, my new draft London Plan serves as a blueprint for the future development and sustainable inclusive growth of our city.  I am planning for growth on the basis of its potential to improve the health and quality of life of all Londoners, to reduce inequalities, and to make this city a better place to live, work and visit.  I am determined to deliver the homes that Londoners need whilst also maintaining and enhancing the workspace that it is crucial for London’s economy.


My draft Plan uses the opportunities of a rapidly growing city to plan for a better future, using each planning decision to improve London, transforming the city over time.  It plans not just for growth but for good growth, sustainable growth that works for everyone.


Planning for good growth means growing a city with more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes for Londoners to buy and rent, and a city with good quality design that is embedded in all new developments from the outset.  It means growing a more socially integrated city and public spaces that are welcoming and accessible to all Londoners.  It means growing a city with a vibrant cultural and heritage offer that engages communities and drives our creative and tourism industries.


I have made it very clear that tackling London’s housing crisis is one of my top priorities and delivering the homes Londoners need is central to my draft London Plan.  The aim is to deliver high-quality, sustainable homes and mixed-use developments at densities that respond to local context and infrastructure capacity rather than simply following a density matrix that offers no protection from poorly designed, unsustainable housing.  The draft London Plan will ensure we have a requirement for minimum internal and external space standards and scrutiny of the design and management of new development.


Supported by my Good Growth by Design Programme, my new draft London Plan embeds good architectural and design quality principles in new buildings and neighbourhoods and will deliver a sustainable, inclusive, healthy city for Londoners.


Andrew Boff AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  How will your removal of any target for larger homes help the 250,000 families living in overcrowded conditions in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am not sure I understand your question in relation to a target for larger homes.  Do you mean the minimum standards?


Andrew Boff AM:  I mean the family-sized homes in the previous Housing Strategy.  There was a target for 36% of affordable homes to be family homes; that is three to four bedrooms.  That target has now been removed, but those people living in overcrowded conditions are looking for you to provide a resolution to their problem.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I believe in devolution and so my draft Plan encourages London boroughs to provide guidance on the size of the homes built in their local areas based on the available evidence of need in their borough.  If the Assembly Member is suggesting a diktat from City Hall, I am happy to receive representations.  I am a believer in local boroughs deciding on the size of homes in their borough.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, you already effectively supply those ‘diktats’, as you call them, in specifying how many homes should be built by each borough, and of course it is your responsibility to allocate funding from the Housing Strategy.  What you decide should be funded will get built.  If you have no target for family homes, those family homes will not get built.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  With respect, Chair, the question displays the misunderstanding of the way the process works.  Let me try to explain.


The new Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) forms a critical part of the evidence base and that is what we used in the new draft London Plan.  Local authorities then decide the size of homes in their boroughs.  What I have set out is the targets we need based upon the expert advice to meet the needs of Londoners: roughly speaking 65,000 homes a year.  You will be working because I am sure you know about the SHMA, it talks about the need for one- and two-bedroom homes across London, but you will be aware of course that if a local authority has a need for family homes, three- and four-bedroom homes - then of course it is open to them, when it comes to considering applications, to make sure those homes get built.


Andrew Boff AM:  In the SHMA, Mr Mayor, it establishes that a certain percentage should be family homes.  You do not have that in either your draft Housing Strategy or your draft London Plan.  How will you ensure that the larger homes are built in order to resolve the problem of overcrowding in London?  May I remind you that overcrowding is more severe in London than in any other city in the UK.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  This is the sort of misunderstanding that leads to policies like the bedroom tax.  The idea that you will get overcrowding resolved by freeing up the space from larger homes by a bedroom tax does not work.


Therefore, what I am saying is: what is the evidence of the need in London?  The evidence is 65,000 homes a year.  Local authorities, where they need family homes, can give permission for family homes.  The expert advice from the SHMA is that we need more one- and two-bedroom homes.  The average age of a Londoner is 34 and so of course is important to build all sorts of new homes of different shapes and sizes depending the needs of each borough.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, according to Shelter, children in overcrowded housing are 10 times more likely to contract meningitis than children in general.  There is a direct link between childhood tuberculosis and overcrowding.  Children living in overcrowded and unfit conditions are more likely to experience respiratory problems such as coughing and asthmatic wheezing.  Overcrowded conditions have been linked to slow growth in childhood, which is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease in later life.  Homeless children are three to four times more likely to have mental health problems than other children.  Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression have also been linked to overcrowding in unfit housing.  Overcrowding is linked to delayed cognitive development and to a lack of development in communication skills.


There are 250,000 families and hundreds of thousands of children being brought up in overcrowded conditions.  What are you, Mr Mayor, going to do about that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, these crocodile tears from the Assembly Member - when his Chancellor has failed to increase from £500 million a year to £2.7 billion a year, which is what we need to build the affordable homes - beggar belief, Chair.  What we need, Chair, is for the Government ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  I did not ask a question of the Chancellor, Mr Mayor.  I asked what you are going to do about it.  Could you tell me what you are going to do about the crisis of overcrowding in this city, which this Assembly unanimously considers to be one of the worst problems facing people in this city.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, although I was raised in an overcrowded house, we had manners and did not interrupt when somebody was speaking.


What I would say is this, Chair.  The Government needs to invest far more in building genuinely affordable homes to ease the problem of overcrowding in London.  The Government has reduced the amount of money we get over successive years and the Government could very easily help us solve this problem.  It could increase the amount of money we invest in affordable homes; that would ease overcrowding.  It could give councils the ability to borrow to build; that would ease overcrowding.  It could give them the ability to prudentially borrow; that would ease overcrowding.  When it comes to refurbishments, rather than having refurbishments without consulting residents, it could make sure councils consult residents by changing the law.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, I want to know what you are going to do.  You have abandoned any target for family homes.  The only solution in your draft London Plan is to encourage one- and two-bedroom flats.  How does forcing a family of four, five or six people into a two-bedroom flat resolve overcrowding problems?  If you are not going to build bigger houses, Mr Mayor, we are going to continue with the problem.  It is as simple as that.  All I am asking is: what are you going to do?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, I have already answered this question.  One of the problems when you write down your questions is that you do not listen to the answers you are given.  The answer I gave four questions ago was that local authorities can give permission to build bigger homes of three ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  You are going to do nothing?  You are waiting for local authorities to do it?


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No, Assembly Member Boff ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  I am get trying to get an answer.  I am trying to get an answer, Chair, and he tells me what other people are going to do, but never what he is going to do.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No.  In the same way you put narrative around your question, you cannot ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  Do not become all passive-aggressive with me, Mr Mayor.  I am trying to get you to answer a question and you are not doing it.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Assembly Member Boff, can you just ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  That is enough.  It is futile talking about the problems of overcrowding with this Mayor.  Futile.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  I will take your advice and, Mr Mayor, we will move on.  I am happy to move on.