Carter Jonas comment on Michael Gove’s letter to Sadiq Kahn 18 December 2023
Date of Article
Dec 21 2023
Planning & development

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Katy Davis, Partner and Head of planning London, comments on Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s letter to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Michael Gove’s very personal letter to Sadiq Kahn sets out some very stark facts. It highlights that housing delivery in London is considerably short of the Mayor’s own London Plan target by approximately 15,000 homes per year, and approximately 63,500 homes lower than was needed last year under the standard method. It also confirmed that fewer than half of the London Boroughs and Development Corporations delivered in excess of 95% of their housing requirement over the last three years.

There are conclusions to be drawn from the content of this letter, its tone and its timing. 

First is the alarming fact that London is significantly under-delivering in terms of housing while other areas are delivering relatively well. London is a driver of the economy – so why has it fallen short in terms of housing delivery? 

The answer may well be the Mayor’s affordable housing policy – not so much the proportion of such housing required (which is consistent with that of previous Mayors) but the rigidity with which it has been applied. In many circumstances the requirement for 35% plus affordable housing has led to schemes becoming unviable and ironically thwarted development of both affordable and market housing.

Additionally, there appears to be concern that under a future Labour Government, a similar policy may be rolled out across the country, with wider implications for delivery.  

Perhaps the direct nature of this public letter and the stark statistics that it contains are aimed at encouraging the Labour Party to take a more considered approach to the proportion of affordable housing to be provided on future development sites. 

The urgency with which the Secretary of State has commissioned a panel of experts to produce a report on the London Plan by January is in sharp contrast to the concerns over the delay and uncertainty that has dominated the planning system for the past year and more. 

It even raises the possibility that Green Belt release will be considered as a means of alleviating the housing crisis in London.

Whether or not this specific issue is addressed, the letter is encouraging in that, like the revised NPPF, it points to a renewed determination in the Government’s attitude towards housing delivery.