New planning policies could boost London’s high streets

Jessica Nangle

January 26, 2021

New planning policies, which came into effect in September 2020, may create more opportunity for new housing in London’s high streets according to the latest research by Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward (KFH).

This favourable policy to revitalise town centres along with COVID-19 accelerating home working, could result in the ‘next cyclical phase’ for cities, according to KFH.

The new planning policies aim to provide a boost to the supply of new homes by cutting red tape and contributing to the regeneration of town centres, particularly in outer London zones.

The Government has allowed for a wider scope of permitted developments rights (PDR) to be introduced, which are widely considered as less costly and time-consuming to build.

In high streets where land is at more of a premium, more emphasis is expected to be placed on ‘airspace’ development, with new homes being added on top of existing buildings.

The report by KFH highlights the top 10 town centres in terms of the number of vacant commercial units that have the potential to become residential space, as well as the opportunity at borough level.

This is quantified by the amount of vacant retail space, vacant non-retail space, 50% of comparison retail space and any department store space present at ‘district’ level town centres.

To estimate the scale of new housing that could be delivered across London’s town centres, the amount of possible floorspace for each high street was converted by KFH into the number of two-bed homes using the average minimum space standards in the Draft New London Plan.

Overall, there is the potential to create 16,117 new homes across the capital, with Croydon, Sutton and Ilford identified as the top three centres for regeneration in the report. 

John East, land and new homes director at KFH, said:“The Mayor of London and councils need to work together to adapt to new demands from their residents, while at the same time managing the often conflicting objectives of central government.

“This includes accelerating new home delivery, rejuvenating the high street and meeting green targets.”

Lockdowns and the growing green movement are adding weight to the ’20 minute neighbourhood’ concept.

The premise is that everyday amenities should be within a 20-minute walk or cycle from home.

During the pandemic, the focus has switched to helping residents move safely within their neighbourhood, which has enlivened many of London’s high streets.

East added: “The legacy of the pandemic could be the renaissance of our local town centres.

“Many places within inner London are already 20-minute neighbourhoods and this is what makes them highly sought-after.

“The concept’s popularity is the reason why centres in the capital’s outer zones should embrace this city design narrative, especially as new housing is set to become a key component in the evolution of town centres over the coming years.”

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