May Chairs Update: RTPI London

The last two events of our election series saw the region host talks on Environmental Resilience and on the future of the London Economy.

The former talk on the environment was kindly hosted by AECOM with speakers from AECOM, Greater London National Park, Jacobs and hosted by our very own George Weeks. RTPI London is calling for a variety of planning, energy, transport and fiscal policies are needed to build public and corporate involvement, and to show leadership on air pollution  and climate change. Such interventions the Mayor can possibly take include, updating the Air Quality Plan, advancing the start date of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone and extending the Congestion Charging Zones to restrict the number of polluting vehicles on the roads. Rolling out a new fleet of electric buses and taxis, along with a city-wide network of electric vehicle charging stations. Furthermore London should join the growing list of cities which have pledged to either run on 100% clean energy or make an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  A review will be available soon.

The London Economy event, questioned tackle risks, shocks, growth and imbalance in the economy and the role of planning. London is a truly global city and we questioned the role of the Mayor in maintaining this economic success. Hosted at 55 Broadway by TfL, hosted by RTPI London and Atkins Zoe Green and with speakers from ARUP, Centre for Cities, Volterra Partners and Atkins, saw a call by Joanna Rowelle for a London Infrastructure Fund, which London could directly fund the infrastructure it needs. This is rather than relying on central Government – based on the premise that London were to retain more of the tax receipts it generates.

The concept of “Transport Investment Zones” was promoted, this is a mechanism which seeks to directly capture the maximum land value uplift a particular transport intervention generates, initially developing the business case for such projects on this basis, and providing a framework for incentivising the public and private sector to work together more cost-effectively. Joanna also called for the use of more radical mechanisms to secure investment funding – increased exploitation of Tax-Increment Funding, and more local authority / public sector use of Bond structures to generate capital for investment purposes. Finally she called for a more use of zoning to de-risk development and reduce planning “red-tape” – the “Permission in Principle” concept within the Housing and Planning bill opens the door to wider use of this.

Ed Clarke from Centre for Cities noted that London has the highest population of graduates in the whole of the UK – this drives the cities attractiveness to both large and small companies. London acts as a massive filter for early professionals – seeing massive in-migration of 18-30 year olds, then steadily increasing out-migrations of older generations as they move further out from the centre. Fundamentally though the majority of those moving out do so to the wider south-east, retaining accessibility to London jobs market. • 40% of all of London’s Private Sector jobs are concentrated on just 8.6% of London’s total area – underlines the crucial importance of the CAZ. The City of London is obviously the biggest driver –10% of all of London’s private sector jobs are concentrated on just 0.2% of London’s total area. Ed noted that to accommodate growth, there should be positive feedback loops whereby politicians would be incentivised to consider more ambitious land use changes by retaining any value uplift locally.

Ellie Evans from Volterra noted that ratio of average personal annual salary to house prices is the largest it’s ever been nationally, but this is particularly magnified in London. In 2015, the average UK-wide house price had increased to 6 x personal annual salary; based on an increased national average salary of £27k, the average house price is now £162k; 141% of  2009 prices. In 2009, the average London house price was 8 x personal annual salary; ie, based on a national average salary of £23k, the average house price was £184k.

In 2015, the average London house price had increased to 13 x personal annual salary; based on an increased national average salary of £27k, the average house price is now £351k; 191% of 2009 prices.

To this end, large companies are now struggling to attract and retain talent in London, due to the high proportion of salary that is spent on accommodation; Deloitte, amongst others, are now purchasing properties and subsidising rent for certain employees. Ellie called for a greater use of Tax-Increment Funding is required to enable the generation of capital required for infrastructure improvements, with greater powers devolved to London / a “City-Deal” enabling greater retention of taxes.

Ensuring that for social infrastructure we are better at forecasting and planning increased provisions.  – in the UK we’re very good at only spotting capacity issues when it’s they hit critical levels, and even then it generally takes longer for things to be resolved / built

GLA should make stronger reference to market forces and actual delivery trends – too much attention is given to ‘capacity’, which then isn’t taken up in the plan period. •              Longer term approaches to the Private Rented Sector need to be driven through – landlords should be better regulated to encourage long term-relationships with tenants and to consider the investments over longer timescales – will be difficult to achieve, but much of Europe exists on this model.

I then summarised the 8 events / debates that we have had across the series.

To 2020 and Beyond Challenges and Priorities for the next Mayor of London: The debates commenced with an insightful talk from Sir Terry Farrell and Janet Askew (RTPI President 2015) at New London Architecture. Sir Terry Farrell then took to the stage. Stating a “very, very strong” belief in proactive planning, he set out seven key recommendations for planning in London More details here.

Planning a Healthier London: Hosted by tp bennett. The Mayor can take significant steps to improve public heath. From how we plan our streets to how we design our transport system. The Transport and Health Action Plan (a world first) which shows how simple steps can be made to make it more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists. With healthcare costs spiralling, we can take preventative action through the design of the built environment to reduce costs. We need to create cities that maximise health alongside economic growth, by making health and wellbeing one of the primary factors in how we design, develop and manage urban environments.

London’s Transport needs by 2050: Hawkins\Brown played host to RTPI London’s second Mayoral Series event on 21 January. Transport was traditionally the top concern in London Mayoral elections; housing is now top of the agenda. This is arguably due to London’s plummeting affordability, as opposed to any real diminution of transport’s prominence. London is a big city and transport is fundamental to its continued existence. Put simply, transport infrastructure stimulates development. London should consider this and provide transport infrastructure corresponding to the types of development that it seeks. Transport is more than moving people and goods around; it is also fundamental to quality of life. It also unlocks housing; strategic investments like the Bakerloo Line extension have the potential to transform the low-value sprawl that characterises Old Kent Road. Funding will be the big question. Access is not inevitable; businesses need to have access to high-quality staff. Transport is thus fundamental. London’s travel-to-work area is immense; planning strategy should acknowledge this.

Strategic Planning and the Greenbelt: The third event in the RTPI London’s Mayoral Election Series (hosted at NLA and sponsored by Arup) tackled what was described by the event chair Christopher Tunnell (Arup) as perhaps the most sacred, but controversial, tenet of UK planning policy. The panel grappled with whether the permanence of the Green Belt be respected and maintained, or whether a wholesale review or entirely different approach should be considered – and if so, what form this should take. Representing diverse organisations, the panelists coalesced around the need for strategic planning concerning the Green Belt. However, they were at odds in their justification and visions for a strategy. The Green Belt will return to the political agenda – that is clear. But, as our debate demonstrated, the outcome will not be easily agreed upon.

Mayoral Hustings: #LDN2020. RTPI London was delighted to join New London Architecture, CIOB, RICS, RIBA, Urban Design Group and Planning Futures  at RIBA’s splendid headquarters in Portland Place. This was a chance to meet the Mayoral candidates (or representatives thereof) from the main UK parties and discuss their visions for London’s built environment. All candidates agreed that London’s housing shortage is a major issue. While the proposals for solving it did vary, there was one item of consensus; no-one wants to contemplate Green Belt expansion. This is consistent with James  Stevens’s assessment that the subject is off the political agenda.  London will be sticking with its existing growth boundaries, for now.

Housing: Housing came out as the top issue for surveyed members. This debate was held at Camden with speakers from Centre for London, Karakusevic Carson Architects, Quod and Trowers and Hamlins. Emerging themes from the event, were calls for an Affordable Housing CIL, allow Local Authorities to collect funding and get on and deliver affordable housing, whilst recognising that this does not meet the aims of mixed and balanced communities. There was a strong call for the Mayor to be a figurehead in housing delivery in the next term with support to Local Authorities to deliver new homes. Solving the skills shortage in housing delivery was also an important theme. A review of this event will be available shortly.

Environmental Resilience and Economy: Summarised above.

I would like to thank all of our partners, sponsors and speakers for their support across the series. This includes New London Architecture, ING Media and TfL as event partners.

As we now have a new Mayor, our attention turns to delivering other events in the programme including the following,

  • London CIL update: 19th May at London City Hall.
  • EU Referendum, 23rd May, together with NLA, Planning Futures and Landscape Institute London. (See here).
  • RICS Matrics, Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) London and Savills: ‘Meet a Mentor’. Wednesday 25th May 2016
  • Planning Law Update: Wednesday 8th June 2016

We have just entered into a Partnership with Urban Design London. This gives RTPI London members the chance to engage in some of UDL’s events. For more details, please get in touch. We are busy developing a number of events with UDL for the London Festival of Architecture in June.

Furthermore we are actively developing our October planning summit, on Thursday October 27th (Save the date). Watch this space for more details.

As ever there is lots going on. Please get in touch with any questions / suggestions. London@rtpi.org,uk

Thanks,

Andrew Dorrian (RTPI London Chair).

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