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Through the recently adopted London Plan, the mayor of London is seeking to address the capital’s chronic housing shortage in light of near unprecedented population growth.

As part of this strategy, Boris Johnson has updated housing delivery targets within the recently adopted Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP), increased the number of opportunity areas and, more recently, introduced housing zones.

This is good news for residential developers, but local authorities are feeling the pressure from having substantial targets landed on them. While balancing pressures on other land uses, one area in which local authorities could become increasingly tested is their five-year housing land supplies.

Unsurprisingly, most local authorities produce five-year housing land supplies to demonstrate that the targets will be met, although they do not always address the mayor’s requirement to exceed the delivery targets.

For a long time, London boroughs’ five-year housing land supplies have largely gone untested, as the quantum of developable brownfield land within London has been unquestionable. However, increasing pressures are challenging boroughs to identify sufficient developable land and a number of boroughs made this clear to the FALP’s inspector.

Outside central London, where densities have traditionally been lower, local authorities are now feeling pressure from developers, who are seeking to maximise unit numbers to account for higher land values. This pressure is not always well received, as was demonstrated at a recent committee meeting of an outer London authority, where one member was heard saying that developers seeking to build “their London homes” in the borough were not welcome.

In the face of local opposition, developers now have a greater incentive to analyse five-year housing land supplies, as successfully showing that a local authority is not delivering its minimum target (let alone exceeding it) will render relevant local housing supply policies out of date. In such a case, a stronger case can be built for a scheme to achieve higher densities and lessen the weight to be applied to detailed design guidance.

In the short term, at least, councils will want to avoid a swathe of high-density schemes in areas that have not been designated for such development. However, where local authorities are unwilling to concede any identified weaknesses in their five-year housing land supply, it will no doubt be a matter that will be increasingly tested at appeal.

Source – Property Week