‘Rather exciting’: Architects welcome Sadiq’s design-led London Plan
7 DECEMBER, 2017 BY ELLA BRAIDWOOD
The mayor’s draft London Plan, published last week, has been almost universally welcomed by architects. Ella Braidwood finds out why his vision for the capital has so excited the profession
Ben Derbyshire was not alone when he took to Twitter to lavish praise on mayor Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan when it was unveiled last week.
The RIBA president said he was ‘hugely encouraged’ after an initial read of Khan’s vision, which unambiguously places design firmly at the heart of his plan. A ‘delighted’ Dinah Bornat of ZCD Architects went further, saying the embryonic proposals could have ‘monumental urban design implications’.
The mayor’s far-reaching document, set to be implemented in 2019, provides a blueprint for London’s ‘future development and sustainable, inclusive growth’ through to 2041.
Alongside an ambitious 50 per cent affordable housing target and the scrapping of density limits, the 524-page document dedicates an entire chapter to design. This comprises 13 design policies, and shows a significant commitment by Khan for good design and architecture.
One of these policies, Delivering Good Design, includes steps for maintaining design quality through to a project’s completion. Of particular interest to the profession – and a new weapon in its armoury to combat marginalisation – is a proposed measure allowing local councils to use ‘architect-retention clauses in legal agreements where appropriate’. This is particularly viewed as an issue under Design and Build where architects are often not novated.
Five key points from the London Plan:
Housing: increasing affordability in the capital
Khan’s draft plan includes a target of 50 per cent of new homes being affordable, part of his aim to roughly double the annual rate of housebuilding in the capital to around 65,000 homes. The plans strengthen the mayor’s provision to fast-track planning applications that achieve a minimum of 35 per cent affordable housing.
A denser city: boosting development at transport hubs
The mayor has taken the bold move of scrapping density limits and the ‘density matrix’, meaning developers will instead seek to make the best use of the land to achieve ‘optimum density’. This increased density, says the plan, should be achieved by ‘applying a design-led’ approach.
The plan also seeks to develop a number of ‘opportunity areas’, including Kingston and the Lee Valley, as well as building up to 24,000 homes a year on small sites and using major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2 to ‘unlock’ around 200,000 homes in the surrounding areas.
Pushing for a greener London
The plan includes further protections for the green belt, recommending refusing developments that would harm the belt. It also promotes the creation of new ‘green infrastructure’ – including green spaces, street trees, green roofs and natural drainage. This is part of Khan’s manifesto pledge to make more than half of London ‘green’ by 2050 by increasing the number of green spaces.
The report also contains an ‘aim to reduce Londoners’ dependency on cars in favour of increased walking, cycling and public transport use’, arguing that London ‘cannot continue to grow sustainably’ if this approach is not taken. It urges developers to increase bike parking on projects, providing minimum standards, and calls for ‘car-free development’ on those projects well-connected by public transport. In addition, the plan features provisions to make London a zero carbon city by 2050.
Toughening up fire safety post-Grenfell
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the draft plan includes a series of strong fire safety measures, including proposals for buildings to be constructed in an ‘appropriate way to minimise the risk of fire spread; for there to be a ‘suitable and convenient means of escape’ for all those in the building; and a ‘robust strategy for evacuation’.
‘It is absolutely essential that we learn every lesson we can from the terrible Grenfell tragedy,’ Khan says. He adds that his plan will ensure the ‘highest standards of safety are set out at the planning stages of new developments in the capital, so that they can be incorporated into the design and build’.
A city built around play
The report urges developers to increase ‘play and informal recreation’ space on all schemes used by children, making it ‘safe and stimulating’ and allowing them to be ‘independently mobile’.
ZCD Architects director Dinah Bornat, one of the mayor’s Design Advocates, says the new measures will ‘change the way we plan new developments as we shift to networking shared spaces as well as considering overlooking and internal circulation’. She says her research into this area for the draft plan ‘reflects the importance of children accessing their local area to move around safely and play’.
The mayor is also calling for new large-scale commercial developments that are open to the public – such as shops and leisure facilities – to include free public toilets. There are also measures to support the capital’s cultural spaces, including museums, creative workspace, theatres, cinemas, libraries, and music venues.
‘Rather exciting’: Architects welcome Sadiq’s design-led London Plan | News | Architects Journal
Khan's London Plan proposes 50% affordable housing and scrapping density limits | News | Architects Journal
Five things you need to know about Sadiq Khan’s new London Plan
Sadiq Khan's plan for an affordable housing boom now rests with developers | Housing Network | The Guardian
> building more:
Will the Mayor of London's ambitious new homebuilding strategy actually work? Don't bet the house - Telegraph
> greening the city:
Sadiq Khan gives solar priority in draft London Plan | Solar Power Portal
London Plan: Khan lays out his proposals for fracking, cycling, the green belt and pubs | The Planner
Draft London plan brings higher fire safety standards - the construction index
Sadiq Khan unveils pro-culture plan for London - Access All Areas