The London Plan – shaping the lives of Londoners

(Illustration - GLA) 

The London Plan, written afresh by every London mayor, is the defining document for all planning in the capital, setting the framework for all spatial development including housing, retail, education, business and leisure for the next 25 years. To quote Mayor Sadiq Khan “it shapes [Londoners] lives on a daily basis.” The new (draft) Plan’s 109 policies, are expected to be ‘part of every borough’s development plan.’ Basically, boroughs are expected to contribute to the delivery of the London Plan through its incorporation into their own local planning documents. If borough documents don’t pass muster, the mayor can take local authorities to task and ultimately withhold TfL funding.   

Housing is, as often emphasised by the mayor, a key issue in the Plan but the document recognises that developments, whether of homes or workplaces, need to cut rather than boost car use:

As the population grows, a fixed road network cannot absorb the additional cars that would result from a continuation of current levels of car ownership and use. Implementing the [reduced] parking [for cars] standards in this Plan is therefore an essential measure to support the delivery of new housing across the city”

“A shift from car use to more space-efficient travel also provides the only [our underlining] long-term solution to the road congestion challenges that threaten London’s status as an efficient, well-functioning globally-competitive city.”

Reducing car use

The new London Plan explicitly seeks to reduce car use.  Instead of trying to ‘balance’ the needs of all road users it recognises a hierarchy where active travel and public transport are prioritised over motoring because it’s the ‘best use of land’ as well as healthier and cleaner. LCC has long championed this common sense argument.

The 25 year Plan does propose to limit car parking growth, with new developments in Central London expected to be ‘car-free’. Apart from generally requiring developers to “support” measures contained in the Mayor’s Transport Plan,  this is the main means by which the London Plan itself makes sure new developments incentivise walking, cycling and public transport use.. But it doesn’t move forward on road pricing  - the biggest tool in the box for reducing car use. Charging could free up road space which could then be used more efficiently, notably for cycling.

High grade cycle infrastructure can deliver high cycling volumes, as seen in Holland and on London’s cycle superhighways, but it is often constrained by a reluctance to re-allocate road space to more efficient modes of transport. The political will, at both city-wide and local level, to deliver has to go beyond the words of the London Plan and its sister document the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, and translate into on-street outcomes.

Cycle parking

 A standard task of the London Plan is to define the minimum standards for cycle parking (which developers invariably treat as their maximum). While cycle parking may be dull, its proliferation is essential if we are to see the 45% increase in cycling over the next five years targeted in the TfL business plan. The good news is that provision in new central office developments has been raised as has that for smaller flats (in part thanks to LCC lobbying).

For existing premises however, whether homes, workplaces or shops the (draft) London Plan offers no solution. Under former Mayor Boris Johnson around 20,000 bike spaces were installed per year. It’s evidently not enough (Hackney has a 5,000 person waiting list for cycle hangars) especially if cycling grows at the 2016 rate of 8.8% per annum.

Plan of action

Sadiq Khan, in his forward to the London Plan, declares it is different from its predecessors and is a plan of action rather than the “sweeping statements of ambition” of old. Action is indeed what London needs, to paraphrase: the proof of the planning is in the pedalling. 

LCC and the London Plan

A longer analysis of the London Plan will be published in the Spring edition of London Cyclist magazine (posted to all LCC members).

LCC will be responding formally to the London Plan consultation. The deadline for responding to the consultation is the 3rd of March. The Plan will subsequently be examined in public later this year and a final version released in 2019.