Child Yield estimates and Play space

MQT on 2019-03-21
Session date: 
March 21, 2019
Question By: 
Nicky Gavron
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Your Housing Strategy finds that there are 380,000 families in London living in overcrowded conditions. Will you commit to an updated child yield study to reflect this, and to ensure that new developments plan for enough play space for children and informal recreation space for under-18s and that boroughs can plan for school spaces and other services?


Child Yield estimates and Play space

Child Yield estimates and Play space

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  Overcrowding in London affects around a quarter of a million households.  This includes more than one in five children.  The lack of room to play can significantly inhibit children’s development and educational achievement.  Safe and stimulating play is essential for children and young people’s mental and physical health.


My new Draft London Plan Policy S4, play and informal recreation, requires residential developments likely to be used by children and young people to provide at least ten square metres of play space per child.  This is the first time a London Plan sets a space requirement for play space per child rather than a benchmark and guidance.


To support this, my team is finalising updates to the GLA population yield calculator, which gives an indication of the possible number and age of children that could be expected to live in a new housing development of a given bedroom or tenure mix.  These updates will improve the calculator’s usability and layout and will be published alongside the methodology document in the next few weeks.


My team is scoping the potential to make better use of data that has become available since the 2011 Census to reflect patterns of occupation in new‑build homes more accurately prior to the release of the new 2021 Census data.  They will also be updating the Shaping Neighbourhoods: Play and Informal Recreation SPG following the adoption of the London Plan to give additional guidance on how play space can be incorporated into new developments.  My new London Plan also requires boroughs to plan for appropriate school provision and facilities in London’s Opportunity Areas, where significant growth and demand is expected.


Nicky Gavron AM:  This is absolutely excellent news.  I want to congratulate you on putting ten square metres per child and young person of play space and informal recreation space actually in the Plan because it now has much more weight or, rather, it will have when it has gone through the examination‑in‑public, which is on 3 May [2019].  It will not go through uncontested and so I will do everything I can on behalf of the Assembly to make sure that we make the case in the way you have now.


I just want to check.  You said that the calculator is being updated in the next few weeks?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, correct.  We will publish that in the next few weeks, Chairman.


Nicky Gavron AM:  That is really important because the current calculator underestimates the number of children, as you said.  It is really out of date.  It goes back to the last two censuses and, therefore, it is eight or 17 years out of date.


It also makes strange assumptions.  For instance it assumes that most people who live in two‑bed flats will not have children.  This is partly why we have these overcrowding figures.  You will see that the English Housing Survey, which came out in January [2019], says that across the whole of the private and social rented sector, all rented sectors are now at a record level of overcrowding.  What you are doing is so important.


However, I just want to check.  You are doing it in advance of the Census figures coming out and then you are going to do it again when the Census figures have come out?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Correct.  We are scoping the potential to do it before the Census comes out ‑ because 2011 was a long time ago and there have been big changes ‑ and making the service available to local authorities as well when it comes to them considering applications that are below the threshold that come to me as well.


Nicky Gavron AM:  That is brilliant.  Then it will of course have to be done again once the Census figures do come out, but it is so important to do it now.  We cannot waste time.


My other ask really ‑ and you have you have answered my first ask ‑ is that while of course you are quite rightly putting a lot of emphasis on youth service provision and the cuts that there have been, here is an idea.  Those ten square metres in aggregate could be used in a different way for young people and what you could have is a situation where the children and the young people could be involved in all sorts of different activities.  It could be safe, accessible and of course free informal space for children.


We have all seen when we go around housing estates, “No ball games”, “No ball games”.  Yet I have seen it myself because I was Chair of the Broadwater Farm Community Centre for quite a few years.  There we had midnight football.  We had all sorts of activities.  Just having five‑a‑side or just having basketball nets and all that can make a huge difference.


My ask is that you produce a best‑practice guide to go with what you are now doing so that local authorities can ensure when are developments come forward that they consult the young people themselves and use that space for proper recreation and sport activity for young people.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, as ever, those are really good points from Assembly Member Gavron.  I answer by saying that I am going to ask my Deputy Mayor Joanne McCartney [AM] to go away and look into the idea from Nicky Gavron, speak to not just the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Regeneration but also Deputy Mayor for Social Integration [Social Mobility and Community Engagement] Debbie Weekes‑Bernard and see what we can do.  That is a cracking idea.  Some sort of best practice for councils would really go along the way and also developers will then know what is expected from them and they could build this into schemes at an early stage.  If you get involved at an early stage of the design phase, these things are possible.  Can I take that away, Chairman, and respond offline to Assembly Member Gavron through Deputy Mayor McCartney [AM]?


Nicky Gavron AM:  Thank you.