At last we are about to have a new London Plan. It is set for publication next week.
It’s been a long and fraught process. Sadiq Khan was elected in May 2016, and published his initial consultation document, A City for All Londoners, in October 2016. The draft new London Plan was published at the end of 2017, and examined in the first half of 2019. The examining panel reported in the Autumn of 2019. Since then there’s been a running spat between Khan and the Secretary of State over various matters (primarily bringing the Mayor’s extreme position on Green Belt and MOL into line with national policy, and moving away from the policy of “no net loss” of industrial land so as to create more flexibility for housing development), and now it’s almost the Spring of 2021.
That’s an awfully long time. Trump has been elected and defeated during that period. The Brexit referendum has happened, and the whole post referendum saga has played out. We’ve had a general election and three Prime Ministers. And we’ve had Covid and the worst economic crisis on record.
This must call into question how up-to-date and relevant the new London Plan is. In my opinion, strategic planning for a city like London is good, if not essential. However, in a fast-moving world, it surely has to be much more agile? Shouldn’t it be focused on genuinely setting the strategic direction; be the product of constant dialogue between GLA and Government; and be updated constantly? I don’t underestimate the amount and quality of work that went into producing the new plan, but surely a document containing over 550 pages and 109 policies is not fit for the purpose it is intended to serve?
Once the City Hall planners have recovered from the final burst of activity to get the new Plan off the stocks, and as soon as the May Mayoral election is out of the way, they will hopefully start focusing on the next version. My entreaty to them is to approach it very differently – look closely at the world we now inhabit, and how it is likely to change over the period ahead; and focus on principles, speed and flexibility. Less is more.
Image: Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash