Why Are There Difference Of Opinion About New Look Density Policy In London?

The housing crisis is not a new thing in London. It has been one of the biggest challenges for planners from quite some time in fact.

The Draft London Plan Examination in Public tries to address the housing supply and strategy along with growth and strategic regeneration.

However, discussions are on about its relevance and applicability.

Experts have an opinion that there is no single solution to the problem as such. A combination of measures is required that includes:

  • A fundamental change in the perspective
  • New, innovative designs
  • Intensification of infill sites

What is the solution if there is increasing pressure on the housing stock in London? One solution is to increase housing density.  Since the density has already reached optimal levels in many of the places and the policy framework doesn’t allow to further increase it; the situation becomes complex.

London density policy

The government is trying to cope up with the situation by drafting London Plan Policy D6- Optimizing Housing Density that replaces the existing policy.

What is the difference in the new and the old draft?

The new policy moves to a qualitative design- led approach from a numerically driven density policy. Also, it assures additional design security for high-density development.

Before formulating this new draft, the government conducted various research projects to check the housing density and to establish its relationship with accessibility and local character.

According to experts, the density matrix has been an indicative tool so far. It told what could be developed on a site. The matrix was never used prescriptively.

However, the numeric simplicity of the new draft makes it dominate the policy approach to housing density.

Since there is nothing like ‘maximum density’ or ‘acceptable density’ because it is a cultural and personal perception; the draft doesn’t indicate that.

The new draft talks about individual site-based factors

The new approach in the policy looks at the factors that are specific to the individual site. These factors are dedicated delivering sustainable residential development. A few examples are; access and proximity to services, the ability to support the existing infrastructure, and surrounding built form.

How will the market react to it?

Realty market experts feel that the reaction to the removal of the matrix will be mixed. However, one thing is true that everyone thinks that in the current form, the matrix is not working.

They say that the matrix has to be evaluated on the merits and demerits objectively so that it influences the development density.

The numerically driven policy is more beneficial for new areas where the development happened from scratch.

The matrix sets the terms of reference for discussions between local councils, developers and communities.

The mixed reactions about it underline how different people view the density in different ways. For some people, it is the starting point that helps in shaping the development rightly. For some, it is just a parameter that should be looked from the site-based context.

Whatever is the perception, the future will decide whether the density policy is right or not.