Improvements from your fast-track planning route

MQT on 2019-03-21
Session date: 
March 21, 2019
Question By: 
Siân Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Could you provide new data to show how your Supplementary Planning Guidance fast-track offer is working to incentivise developers to provide more affordable homes?


Improvements from your fast-track planning route

Improvements from your fast-track planning route

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The level of affordable housing in planning permissions across London’s boroughs fell to a pitiful 13% under the previous Mayor.  That is why our pioneering fast‑track route for planning applications, which both increases the level of affordable housing and gets homes built more quickly, was so urgently needed.  The fast‑track route is a key feature of my new Draft London Plan, which is currently at its Examination in Public.  Until my Plan is adopted we have to work under the previous Mayor’s London Plan but we are determined to go as far as possible as quickly as possible, and so rather than wait until my new Plan is adopted, we began developing an Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) as soon as I was elected. 


Since this guidance was formally adopted in August 2017, more than 50 applications referred to me have followed the fast‑track route and the data shows it is clearly having a positive impact.  In my first year as Mayor we secured 22% affordable housing in schemes that were referred to me; this, by the way, secured even withstanding the previous Mayor’s planning rules.  New data shows that last year [2017/18] we managed to increase this even further to 34%.  That is with my tougher guidelines on what counts as genuinely affordable, rather than the previous Mayor’s dodgy definition.  The fast‑track is helping make this happen.  In 2018, more than half of the referable schemes included 35% or more affordable housing.  Our approach has been welcomed by councils, developers and Londoners.  Crucially, it avoids protracted viability debates and provides certainty to developers when buying land about how much affordable housing they should deliver. 


An important next step is the adoption of my London Plan, which as I mentioned is currently being considered at its Examination in Public.  When it is adopted, the Plan will give further strength to my definition of ‘genuinely affordable’, my fast‑track approach and my commitment to review the 35% threshold in 2021.  This means you will be able to take my approach to affordable housing further.  That is the right thing to do and the data shows it is clearly working. 


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.  Can I ask for some clarification on some of the numbers you just gave me?  You said that 34% was the amount of affordable housing coming out of referable applications last year.  That is the same number as you gave to Assembly Member Copley in February 2018.  By “last year”, do you mean during the calendar year 2018?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I think it is the same, 34% from last year ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  That was 2017, in fact?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, 2016/17 was 22%, 2017/18 was 34%.


Sian Berry AM:  2017/18 was 34%.  OK.  Thank you very much.  I am quite happy to see such progress ‑ up from 13% to that is good ‑ but at the moment the threshold is set to stay at 35%, which is well below the target that we are setting in the new London Plan and well below London’s need.  I know you are currently planning to review the threshold in 2021.  I hope you will not mind if whoever is the next Mayor reviews it as soon as they get elected in 2020?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am not sure if that is a hustings speech or a question.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I am not sure. 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Well, I am hoping to be the next Mayor so we will review it in 2021.


Sian Berry AM:  If you are the next Mayor you will not review it until 2021 but if anyone else is, they can step in like you did with the SPG and change it then?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I am not really sure how to respond.  Are we going to have 13 months of this?


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I do not like to deal in fantasy, Mr Mayor.


Sian Berry AM:  Just to clarify, Mr Mayor, you are not considering reviewing it any sooner than 2021 even if it is successful?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is just worth reminding ourselves that we are currently still operating under the previous Mayor’s London Plan and I have to act within the law.  We did something quite bold in publishing an SPG within the constraints of the previous Plan, trying to persuade developers to go faster.  Some people said we could not do it, and you know who I mean by that.  She is signed up to be the next Mayor.  We are doing it and seeing the progress made.  If you are saying we are the victim of success because my policies are working and I should be more ambitious, I should take the compliment but I also want to look at the evidence.  We will have a new London Plan coming into play next year [2020].  It could well be the new London Plan, which is far more ambitious in relation to affordable housing, leads to a further change of behaviour from developers, but we need to make it attractive to make the fast‑track route work for developers.  That is why I am going to review it in 2021, when we will have a year’s operation of the new London Plan but also have seen the progress made with the fast‑track threshold.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you.  I will be following the numbers very closely myself too.  Thank you.