Eyes are on the local election results in London and in particular three Conservative boroughs – Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet – moving to Labour.
As these new administrations settle in power over the weeks ahead, planning, development and regeneration policy faces significant shifts that will affect schemes coming forward in these areas.
Other Labour boroughs with renewed mandates are also likely to strengthen their focus and, with many key policies addressing pressing societal and environmental concerns, there are lessons for the rest of the capital too.
For us there are four key changes to monitor, particularly in boroughs where control is moving to Labour.
Addressing affordability is a key concern. Housing costs are a major burden – from social housing and shared ownership, to people wanting to take their first steps towards private ownership. We would add affordable workspace as well. Most Central London Boroughs in Labour control (such as Islington, Southwark and Hackney) already have such policies and it is expected that Wandsworth and Westminster will start preparing similar policies.
The move towards zero carbon is essential, not just in London but across the country. Retrofit-first policies are on the horizon and new build is unlikely to automatically be the first and only option for regeneration schemes. More schemes are coming forward with new ways of reusing land, buildings and materials that could be a blueprint for future innovation but there is more the private sector can do and viability remains a challenge.
Part of the move to zero carbon will be around transport, with reductions in emissions and further restrictions on private vehicles. 15-minute walkable neighbourhoods may be the ideal, but in a city where people travel further to work, shop and socialise, investment in public transport needs to increase proportionately
For us, aspirations for lower density are too general. From a local perspective it might be understandable: changing skylines and effects on everything from services to rights of light all need to be factored in.
But in a major city where the population is growing and land use is vastly different across its 32 boroughs, increasing density in the right way is one area that can offer a solution to the issue of affordability. New developments need to be located carefully and designed thoughtfully, optimising light, open space and liveability with established placemaking principles at their heart, but they can create more active, walkable and successful neighbourhoods.
We should expect to see more detailed changes coming through in the weeks and months ahead as Councils regroup and new representatives set out their plans. It will be important to monitor policy changes more carefully, including impacts on Local Plans, to ensure that schemes of all sizes respond to this changing landscape.