Scathing letter from Housing Secretary to Sadiq Khan causes possible delays to London Plan

By Imogen Smith
March 27 2020, 08.00

A high-level spat over the mayor’s London Plan 2019 may result in delays for development projects across London.

The Great West Corridor – covering Osterley, Brentford and part of Chiswick – is one major development area in south west London that may be affected by changes or delays to adoption of the plan.

Sadiq Khan received a highly critical letter from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick last Friday in response to his proposed ten-year future development strategy for London.

Jim Storrar, retired planner and committee member of residents’ group Brentford Voice said: “There is no doubt that Jenrick’s letter is a scathing critique of the London Plan.

“As always, there is a lot of politics underlying this – Conservative-controlled district and shire areas within the Home Counties don’t want to end up in a position where they may have to accommodate some of the shortfall in London’s housing supply.”

For the Great West Corridor Local Plan, it is up to the Housing Secretary to appoint an inspector for the necessary inquiry before development can go ahead.

Mr Storrar said: “Our guess, and it’s no more than that, is that the Secretary of State would not wish to hold an inquiry until the London Plan is done and dusted.”

Hounslow Council was contacted but did not provide a comment.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Mayor makes no apologies for trying to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the capital while at the same time protecting and enhancing the Green Belt.

“The Secretary of State is trying to run roughshod over the Mayor’s efforts to finalise a London Plan, which will deliver for Londoners and deliver on pledges from the Mayor’s manifesto.

“The Secretary of State needs to realise that London is best served by the Government devolving further funding and powers to the capital to build the affordable homes it urgently needs, instead of taking this heavy-handed approach.”

Mr Jenrick’s letter was deeply critical of both the proposed plan and Mr Khan’s track-record, describing housing delivery in London under Mr Khan as ‘deeply disappointing’.

The letter said: “Having considered your plan at length my conclusion is that the necessary decisions to bring more land into the planning system have not been taken, the added complexity will reduce appetite for development further and slow down the system, and throughout the plan you have directly contradicted national policy.

“For these reasons I am left with no choice but to exercise my powers to direct changes.

“Your plan must be brought to the minimum level I would expect to deliver the homes to start serving Londoners in the way they deserve.”

Mr Jenrick was particularly critical of delays to major development sites, claiming that the inability of the mayor’s Development Corporation in Old Oak and Park Royal to work with landowners resulted in £250 million of Government funding being turned down.

With the current Covid-19 crisis, it is difficult to know when a new draft of the London Plan may be finalised.

In the meantime, London development projects are left without clear future direction.

The Housing Secretary also criticised a lack of focus on building homes for ownership for people of different ages, backgrounds and situations, and described mentions of rent control as ’empty threats’.

Debates between the Conservative Housing Minister and Mayor of London on these issues will be ongoing.

Mr Jenrick was contacted but did not provide a comment.

It is unknown whether or not Mr Jenrick was aware of the mayoral election postponement at the time of sending the letter.

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