Planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) has calculated the figures in its submission to the Further Alterations to the London Plan (FALP), published by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in January, which sets the capital's ten-year housing target at 42,000 homes a year. However, the GLA's own Strategic Housing Market Assessment shows an annual housing need of 49,000 to 62,000 homes a year – resulting in an annual shortfall of between 7,000 and 20,000 homes.
To counter this, over the next 10 years between 70,000 and 200,000 new homes could be displaced across the South East from London, according to NLP. This could effectively force local authorities across Kent and Medway to plan for both their own needs, as well as the needs of London – to the tune of 26,037 homes.
The report suggests the potential housing overspill into Kent and Medway is exacerbated by the London Metropolitan Green Belt, with the GLA not proposing to undertake a review of it.
NLP has calculated each district’s migratory and commuting patterns with London – as well as their physical constraints on development – and predicted where the additional homes would need to go.
If the highest London housing need figure of 62,000 homes per year is used (and Green Belt is developed), NLP predicts Kent local authorities will require the following level of additional new homes as their share of the total for the South East:
Tonbridge and Malling 1,864
Tunbridge Wells 1,513
Dover appears to be saved from the prospect of additional houses due to its distance from London.
However, should Green Belt land not be reviewed these figures could become significantly higher with, for example, Medway earmarked for a potential 13,211 homes.
As one of more than 300 respondents to the FALP, Kent County Council called on the Mayor to work with London boroughs to review London’s Green Belt, suggesting this will ensure all development options are considered to meet London’s own needs within its boundaries, alongside maximising brownfield and appropriate high density opportunities.
KCC has also argued that the continued enlargement of London’s office floorspace and the oversupply of commercial opportunities within the capital will continue to divert investment opportunities from areas such as Ebbsfleet.
As a result, the Kent authority suggested the amount of employment land being proposed in the capital is reviewed to improve the balance between housing and economic development provision to ensure London and its hinterlands are complementary. If the argument is heeded by the GLA, Kent developers could meet some of this commercial investment need and help spread the benefits South East wide – potentially making the county more self-sufficient.
Medway Council argued London ‘cannot simply transpose its needs elsewhere’, and is ‘extremely concerned that should uncertainty over how London’s future housing requirement will be met, be allowed to impede progress on our own Local Plan, or indeed that of other local authority areas in the South East’.
Local districts have also voiced their concerns. Sevenoaks District Council argues more should be done by London to meet its own expected need if it is to support sustainable economic growth. Otherwise, there is a risk that districts in the South East could become dormitories for London's workforce. This would potentially damage locally-driven growth by increasing commuting and reducing employment land.
Tunbridge Wells agreed with its neighbouring authority, also saying it is significantly constrained by a range of landscape and other constraints including Green Belt, the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and areas of flood risk.
Bordering the London boroughs, Dartford argues local councils should not have additional housing need from London, including affordable housing, thrust upon them as a result of London not meeting its housing need. Unlike other local authorities which have to co-operate when making plans to ensure a sufficient housing supply in the wider area, there is no legal duty on the GLA to cooperate in the same way with local authorities in the South East.
Many of the Kent respondents to the FALP, and the NLP report, call on the GLA and South East authorities to “work together in order to ensure these needs are effectively met”. Time will tell whether this happens.