The Housing Delivery Test 2019 results are in…placing greater emphasis on the development sector to deliver more homes. Coupled with the pending revision to the London Plan Housing Targets, what does this mean for London and what are the opportunities moving forwards?
The HDT is Government’s test for measuring the rate of housing delivery across England. The 2019 results show the delivery of new homes over the past three years, in comparison to targets for an area in that same period. For some, no further action is required, however others (with less than 85% delivery) must identify a 20% buffer, prepare an Action Plan or, in areas which have delivered less than 45%, a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ should apply. In London, the latter relates to the City and Havering, with the former required in several Outer and Central Boroughs (i.e. Barnet, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham and Islington).
The increased pressure to deliver is heightened by the revision to London Plan Housing Targets which generally sees targets increased across London with the Planning Inspectorate recommending a review of London’s Green Belt. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government recently announced an extension for a decision until the 16 March 2020. This includes a potential over-turn of the Mayor’s intentions to reject the commitment to a Green Belt review. The announcement seeks the Mayor’s understanding that the Government has been “going through a very busy period”. With the Mayoral election looming, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
A silver lining…
Decisions aside, one thing is for certain, developers and local authorities will need to continue to work collaboratively to optimise brownfield land, whilst also thinking strategically about placemaking to deliver not only homes but places where people want to live, work and play. This is particularly relevant in areas earmarked for comprehensive redevelopment – e.g. the London Riverside or Thames Link/HS2 growth corridors where targets are set to increase and/or delivery needs to be heightened.
Town centres and sites close to key transport links have a big part to play in providing for a mix of uses, alongside housing to help diversify and revitalise the traditional high street offer – something which the London Plan and national policy proactively support. However, it will be key for the development sector to think creatively and flexibly about how these environments work and are future-proofed, with employment proving just as critical in creating sustainable places. Higher density Build to Rent products, co-living and co-location are also still hot on the agenda.
Whatever the decision on the Green Belt review, the Examination process for the emerging London Plan and the HDT results highlight an ongoing scarcity of land in London whereby the above must be realised to help reach the targets envisioned. For Green Belt boroughs (particularly in Outer London) this need is heightened; opening broader discussions about reviewing boundaries at a local level. More land will need to be found, with brownfield registers and engagement in the local planning process fundamental.