London Boroughs must actively plan for more housing in town centres, says new report

London boroughs must actively plan for more housing, and allow for other changing uses, in town centres if the capital is to meet the challenges of rapid growth, says a new report for the Greater London Authority.

Accommodating Growth in Town Centres, by Maccreanor Lavington, Peter Brett Associates LLP (PBA) and Graham Harrington Planning Advice, will inform the Further Alterations to the London Plan, and will also be the focus of future regeneration funding and programmes. Members of the Outer London Commission, the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, and the LEP SME Working Group formed a reference group to the research.

The report finds that the capital’s town centres are already undergoing significant restructuring that is challenging their traditional role. Town centres have been particularly hit by changing shopping habits and working practices. The report recommends that restructuring is led by residential development in order to create a balanced mix of uses in town centres.

Kevin Logan, Associate Director of Maccreanor Lavington, said:

“Town centres represent the lifeblood of London’s communities, and maintaining their role as a cultural focus is key. This report looks to amplify and intensify existing qualities and characters whilst responding to structural changes as opportunities to meaningfully accommodate London’s growth.”

The report urges boroughs to actively plan for new homes whilst qualitatively analysing the importance of non-residential space. It recommends that boroughs develop specific town centre strategies. These strategies should quantify their cultural and fiscal value, identify opportunities for intensification, identify major challenges, and define planned changes.

Town centres strategies should also recognise the important role that lower cost enterprise spaces in and around town centres play in the local economy, and consider what role they should play in the future.

David Codling, PBA’s Director of Property, said:

“Changes on the high street offer boroughs opportunities to create vibrant and exciting places which have diverse uses and provide much needed new homes. An example is Hackney Central which the London Borough of Hackney is taking an active role in re-shaping. This includes buying sites and properties to gain greater control over the shaping of the centre in a way that is not possible through planning policy alone.”

The report recommends that the Mayor’s support be directed at those centres which have the potential for intensification; are under threat of decline as a result of structural change; and where there is the commitment and capacity to deliver intensification.

Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise, said:

“London’s high streets are the heartbeat of the capital’s business community and the Mayor’s recently published ‘Action for High Streets’ aims to maximise their huge potential while delivering tens of thousands of new homes. This is a very useful piece of work which will help us ensure our high streets rise to the challenge of reinventing themselves as places to live as well as work, and thrive for years to come.”

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