Buro Happold and key industry players discuss the London plan for housing

With London’s population rapidly expanding and housing affordability becoming out of reach for most Londoners, the pressure in addressing London’s housing shortage is approaching boiling point.

As such, London residential development is facing major challenges in land supply, materials and obtaining capital. Equally if not more critical is the need for 1m new workers that the UK construction industry will need to find in the next five years to have any hope in achieving housing targets.

This was the stark warning given by Dominic Grace, Head of Residential Development at Savills in London when he spoke to a gathering of investors, developers and industry collaborators at an event hosted by Buro Happold London and Intelligence Forums on 10th June.

With a breath taking target to increase housing delivery to over 42,000 homes a year under the London Plan, Dominic highlighted a number of key potential solutions that will be needed to unlock supply:

  • Green Belt reclassification.  Public access land and land that has an environmental designation accounts for only 22% of London’s
  • Green Belt, and around 60% of London’s Green Belt is within 2km of an existing rail or tube station;
  • Increasing the availability of brownfield land;
  • Considering Garden Cities and areas beyond the M25 to increase housing supply beyond 50,000 and deal with the back log;
  • Increased density in certain locations;
  • Maximising the use of public land.  The London Land Commission is a good starting point to identify land, not all will be suitable or easy;
  • Wider tenure mix;
  • Housing Zones.  Flexibility is key, as would be political will;
  • Infrastructure improvements.  There are already some underway but there is a need for confirmation of funding and certainty of delivery.  Long lead in times are crucial to achieve this.
  • Faster delivery.

Andy Keelin, Head of the Commercial and Residential at Buro Happold, continued the debate by underlining some of the intelligent engineering solutions Buro Happold has successfully applied in optimising delivery by unlocking some of the most complex sites in London, including Battersea and Greenwich Peninsula.

Andy picked up Dominic’s question of faster delivery, echoing the principles of the Egan Report “Rethinking Construction” (1998) where new thinking around modular construction will now become a necessity in achieving housing delivery in London going forward.
All in the room were agreed that to meet these challenges calls for a ‘war footing’ attitude from all key stakeholders, where necessity is the mother of [re]invention, Political will is galvanised and Industry impetus is bolstered.

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