Savills plc

01/14/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/14/2021 03:28

The London Plan: Moving closer to adoption?

On the 22 December 2020, Savills summarised and gave its opinion on the publication draft London Plan's (21 December 2021) response to the Secretary of State's directions from March and December last year. This Plan essentially made the majority of the wording changes requested by the Secretary of State on several key areas including industrial land and tall buildings, and we were therefore confident that it would likely be adopted in Spring 2021. However, on the 24 December 2020, the Secretary of State responded setting out that he would also now need to consider the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling on the lawfulness on the expansion of Heathrow on the Plan.

The Plan currently sets out that the Mayor will strongly oppose any expansion of Heathrow that would result in additional environmental harm or negative public health impacts. The aviation policy explicitly states in its text that there should be 'no additional noise or air quality harm' and that benefits of technological and regulatory improvements need to be 'fairly shared with affected communities'. Instead, the Mayor offers his direct support for the expansion of Gatwick.

This is a highly political issue and the Government's position on Heathrow expansion and the Mayor's are clearly in conflict. It is therefore anticipated that the Secretary of State will be looking particularly closely at the policy test of 'no harm' to noise or air quality. There are other policy tests that will also need to be carefully considered, such as ensuring there is sufficient supporting infrastructure capacity to accommodate any airport expansion.

If the Secretary of State directs the policy is reworded, this will need to be based on the policy either not being: (A) positively prepared, (B) justified, (C) effective, or (D) consistent with national planning policy.

The good news is that the Secretary of State has reiterated his support of getting the Plan adopted as soon as possible and has therefore stated that he will not be looking at any issues other than those already identified in his original directions and the implications on Heathrow. A response is expected on the 1 February, and Savills will monitor this carefully.

At this stage, we still remain optimistic that the Plan can be adopted early in 2021, and that almost full weight can be given to its policies. However, it will be interesting to see what position the Secretary of State now takes on the aviation policy, as it is imagined that any attempts to dilute the requirement for preventing harm to air quality and noise will be politically contentious and strongly resisted by the Mayor, as well as the boroughs most affected.