This month saw the news that the capital’s population surpassed its previous 1939 peak and is now the largest ever. What’s more, the boom looks set to continue, with the population projected to reach 10 million by 2036, according to London First.
London needs to plan now for this potential future growth if we don’t want yet more unaffordable homes, rammed trains and tubes, and enormous pressure on our schools and hospitals.
But while our population may be growing, our land mass is not. So how do we accommodate London’s growth given the scarcity of land in the capital?
The ideal solution is to build on more brownfield land. This is an attractive option that could help regenerate nearby communities and utilise existing infrastructure, but it’s also expensive – for councils, regeneration bodies, developers and others alike. The Committee will explore how to make brownfield development a more affordable and attractive option. We will hear how both the public and private sectors can facilitate this.
As well as brownfield London has an ample though often overlooked supply of under-developed land, particularly in the suburbs. We need to think more creatively about how to use our land and also about different housing typologies that can make the most efficient use of land whilst providing high quality of life, particularly for families.
We could build more homes in towns and villages outside the capital. But this is not always popular with local residents. Decent rail links are costly to create, and councils outside London, understandably, don’t think they should be the receptacle of London’s overflow.
Or finally, and most controversially, we could build more on London’s Green Belt. But what would that mean for this planning invention that is the envy of the world, and that does so much for the environment, recreation, and preventing suburban sprawl? There are many ways that the Green Belt can be repurposed for use in the 21st century.
Later this week, the London Assembly’s Planning Committee will open up a discussion of these issues. The meeting will provide the opportunity for a discussion with invited experts to establish some of the key issues that need to be addressed in terms of options for accommodating London’s future growth.
If you’re interested in this debate, you can watch live here on Thursday 22 January at 10am. Or you can watch it live at City Hall.
See where Green Belt is near you on this interactive map.