Since 2000, London has reformed its citywide strategic planning more than any major developed western city. In 2000, the UK national government created the Greater London Authority (GLA), including a directly elected Mayor. Urban planning and transport was incorporated into a strategic citywide plan, the London Plan, backed by a multi-modal transport agency, Transport for London. Strategic planning is now central to London’s long-term urban development.
The London Plan, first launched in 2004 and the city’s first for nearly two decades, has transformed the city’s attitude to integrated plan-led development in a historical context where there has been hostility to ambitious political visions and large-scale physical interventions. The Plan is a live document; it is regularly and rigorously updated. The 2011 version is more focused than the previous Plans – with fewer policies, designed to be user-friendly.
London’s plan has to address the challenge of population growth. London’s population declined after the Second World War but has risen again since the current phase of globalization began and is set to reach 9,000,000 by 2031.
London’s Population 1911 to 2031:
While primarily a spatial strategy, the London Plan has scope over a range of policy fields, including housing, quality of life, economic growth, social inclusion, sustainability, accessibility, design standards, and climate change adaptation. The plan directly focuses on the key challenges in these fields and has accelerated the flow of ideas and implementation. The London Plan is therefore, the unifying framework for all Mayoral strategies, which also include economic development, transport, biodiversity and culture.
The London Plan offers a strategic vision rather than a precise territorial map of land-uses. The Plan’s main map identifies a series of growth corridors and opportunity areas around the city, focusing future growth on brownfield sites. The boroughs take on these broader visions and enact the detail. Boroughs develop Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) which offer improved flexibility and enable proper community and stakeholder involvement.
The London Plan has encouraged the location of growth sites in areas where there is high public transport capacity. The Plan has crystallised all the thinking on London’s developments into a scheme-by-scheme basis, which links planning, development, land use and transport systems together in order to achieve high density targets in these hubs. The London Plan allows for site-specific endorsements, designating priority areas that can motivate private sector involvement.
The London Plan’s character of guiding inclusivity offers a positive new instrument for London’s future development. The Plan has achieved wide participation and acceptance, not least because its formulation encouraged a commitment to a decisive and comprehensible vision. The Plan’s structure has enabled it to be smoothly converted into sector-based strategies and incorporated into local plans. It has especially prompted a more direct effort to rehabilitate brownfield sites in many boroughs were much land is derelict.
The London Plan is an example of a strategic plan which has benefited from close alignment with national strategies, especially in terms of growth corridor locations and commitment to sustainable development. The Plan is nourished by a number of strategic alliances that facilitates quicker implementation.
A number of challenges remain, notably in terms of overcoming financing constraints and intra-regional co-ordination shortcomings. The Plan’s integration with the planning initiatives in neighbouring regions such as the South East and East of England has been partial and limited due to a lack of co-coordinating mechanisms.
As London prepares for the 2012 Olympic Games, the London plan provides the longer term framework for development that enables The Games to be the catalyst of the development of East London, providing London with the capacity needed to increase housing and business locations and to guide infrastructure integration for the long term.
IMAGE: TJ Morris