Congratulations to Quatro for putting on an excellent debate on ‘Tackling London’s Housing Crisis’ (12th November), and to some really insightful contributions from Cllr Ravi Govindia (Leader of Wandsworth Council), Sir Steve Bullock (Mayor of Lewisham) and Cllr Stephen Knight (GLA and Richmond Council).
Apart from giving credence to the old adage ‘never mix liberal democrats with property developers and alcohol’ (best not ask), the evening provided cross-party clarity on the need for action in the Capital. All speakers acknowledged that difficult decisions need to be taken, and perhaps surprisingly, all recognised that if we are to return to anything like pre-World War II delivery rates, the Green Belt cannot be viewed as sacrosanct. Cllr Govindia staunchly defended the right for foreign investment in London property – and foreign residential ownership, whereas Sir Steve Bullock was anxious to move the focus away from home ownership to renting, particularly PRS. Cllr Knight felt that the priority was on addressing London’s acute need for affordable housing.
So where does the debate take us? I would suggest it takes developers into town halls. Difficult decisions do need to be taken, and whilst the London Plan (and borough local plans/LDF’s need to be respected and considered, the opportunity exists for developers with landholdings – and ambition – to move the agenda on – and in the short term. The GLA has an important role in providing leadership, guidance and pragmatism; what price protecting a worn-out shed site when we need to build 50,000 homes a year? (not my figures – I was saying 35,000 last week, but those of the assembled politicians).
Those with the vision are likely to reap their own rewards…