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The draft London Plan Examination in Public closes

The independent examination of the Mayor’s draft London Plan closed on 22 May.

So what have we learnt after 34 days of hearings covering 94 matters?

We now know that, despite the billing, excitement was in short supply. More than one senior planning consultant was seen asleep during the less focused contributions of the lobby groups and the Greater London Authority (GLA) team robustly defended their position in the face of compelling challenge.

More to the point the Mayor’s own evidence base was exposed as not sufficiently detailed or robustly tested enough to support the level of policy prescription proposed. As predicted the Panel of inspectors put the GLA under particular pressure in the sessions dealing with housing strategy, Green Belt, small sites, industrial land, affordable workspace and viability.

Big concerns remain about the cumulative impact of these emerging policies on development viability.

Yet despite these challenges we now know that the travelling draft of the plan (to be submitted to the Inspectorate in the next few weeks) includes various additions and clarifications but no substantive changes. Major changes, if there are to be any, will be driven by the Panel.

Dare we hope that the Panel recognises the evidence gap and so require the Mayor to strip the plan back to something more genuinely strategic? If this were to happen the Mayor may, or may not, accept the Panel’s recommendations. If he chooses to ignore them the Secretary of State can, and is likely to, step in. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) had monitors present at many of the sessions and it is intriguing to speculate whether they felt the Draft Plan passes the test of soundness. Even if it does, will the Plan’s shortcomings lead to a demand for an immediate review?

In September the Panel will issue their report to the GLA. The Mayor will then have two months to consider the report before making it public. Given the opportunity we might expect the Secretary of State to intervene in early 2020.

So, more questions than answers. At this point the Mayor’s expectation of being able to adopt the Plan in early 2020 feels a little ambitious.

We will continue to monitor the Draft London Plan as it progresses. For further information please contact Michael Lowndes or Ben Wrighton.

4 June 2019