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How can london deliver more homes ?

06 Mar 2019

Movers & Shakers London Breakfast: How can London deliver more homes? -The Politics and Policies of Planning in London On Wednesday 6th March, property professionals from London and beyond gathered to discuss a pertinent issues: planning in London, and the policies (and politics) that housebuilders, developers and civil servants alike, must navigate to get deliver the level of new homes the Capital so desperately needs.

It was an honest and passionate panel debate that saw the audience give two rounds of applause to Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council for his comments around building a better London for all Londoners, not just the wealthy.

The day began with an excellent summary of the Draft London Plan from Claire Dutch, Partner and Head of Planning at Hogan Lovells International LLP. Claire reminded attendees that the plan was in fact the ‘draft’ London plan, not the ‘new’ London, plan, and that the government was more than willing to consider addendums and suggestions. After summarising the feud between Sadiq Khan and James Brokenshire, acknowledging Letwin’s suggestion that developers were ‘drip-feeding’ homes to the market to increase their profits, and stating that there was no viable alternative, she summarised regulatory changes that would change the market, whether for the better or worse.

Following Claire’s presentation, the panel was introduced. Chaired by Faraz Baber, Director at Terence O’Rourke, panellists included David Lunts, Executive Director of Housing & Land, GLA, Alice Lester MBE, Head of Planning Transport and Licensing, Brent Council, Dawn Wylie, Land Director, Weston Homes plc, Andy Hill, Chief Executive, Hill Group, and Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham.

The panellists vocalised the very real problems they face each day with building more homes in London. Councillor Darren Rodwell began with an impassioned speech about building homes for ‘real Londoners’. Cllr Rodwell urged attendees to look to infrastructure, and focus on bringing more jobs, schools, and travel links to areas before building new homes. He also expressed the clear message that we need to get back to believing that renting your home is as acceptable as buying.

Alice Lester MBE spoke about avenues for intensifying the delivery of homes and highlighted the importance of quality. Alice remarked that quality is essential when it comes to new homes, and that she would be willing to accept a lower number of houses, if they get a better-quality product for residents.

Dawn Wylie, Land Director of Weston Homes plc, told the audience that the housing target was being achieved, and that the UK was well on its way to achieving housing growth. However, she said that many boroughs struggled with clarity. She said that some planning officers need more empowerment to make decisions. We need to get on with delivering schemes and need boroughs to be clear on what mix of housing they need so we can deliver that.

David Lunts, the Executive Director of Housing & Land at the GLA, was more optimistic about the process. He cited that 78% of all major planning applications in 2018 were granted consent and 45,500 houses were completed last year. But the challenge is who are we building for? He said that only in some boroughs did planning get stuck and he wished that the government would allow local authorities to cater to the needs of their constituents, without micromanaging the process.

For Greg Hill, Deputy Chief Executive of Hill Group UK, certainty was the most important factor when it comes to achieving funding for new developments. According to Greg most lenders will not offer funding to developers unable to raise 35% of the capital needed to deliver the development. How that 35% is drawn upon, and where that 35% stands is critical. However, he did feel that lenders needed to be more sympathetic, delivering developments is far more complex than securing 35% of funding.

The panel closed with an earnest plea from Councillor Rodwell that London needed a paradigm shift. He said a part of the community, the part that does not own their own home, has been left behind. There is a disconnect between community and society.

The panel also gave their recommendations to developers wishing to build in London - proper resourcing is essential, housebuilders should cut to the chase when making applications, and affordable housing requires subsidies.