Inner London allows more new homes than all suburban boroughs

  • Inner London allows 50% more new homes than all capital’s more spacious suburbs – granting 11,970 in H1
  • Proposed new properties are four times more likely to be rejected by the outer boroughs of Greater London
  • Further boost as 13 Inner London boroughs also attract more applications for homes than 20 Outer boroughs
  • Downward trend underscores this squeeze – as total London home approvals drop 32% over first half of 2015

Inner boroughs of London are granting planning permission for more new homes than the all the surrounding Outer boroughs put together, according to the latest London New Homes Monitor from Stirling Ackroyd.

In absolute terms, London’s thirteen Inner boroughs approved a total of 11,970 new homes throughout the first six months of 2015.

By contrast, all twenty Outer London boroughs allowed just 7,960 new homes in the same period.

This means Inner London is granting permission for 50% more homes in absolute terms than the whole of Outer London – despite representing a considerably smaller land area, numbering fewer individual boroughs, and already hosting the highest densities of existing development.

Andrew Bridges, Managing Director of Stirling Ackroyd, comments: “London is becoming a tale of two cities. This is the best of times for those with a foot on the ladder and a share in prosperity. But we’re facing the worst of times for London’s aspiring first time buyers, for long-term tenants – and for the concept of long-term planning.

“Half of this harrowing story is good news. As London re-emerges from the industrial decline, dwindling population and hollowing retreat of the 20th century, the heart of this world city is beginning to beat quicker again. Densely packed hubs of jobs and ideas in Inner London are building the core of our capital’s future economy. Creative professionals want to live in these vibrant communities on the doorstep of the dynamism that makes London the capital of the cultural world. So more homes here bring the future a little closer – and there is plenty of space for even more homes in central sites across Inner London.

“Yet the reluctance to keep up from so many suburban boroughs is still a restraint on London’s success and a stopper on the progress of people’s lives. If Outer London refuses to dance to the same tune, the capital’s overall house building targets may be pushed further into the realm of political imagination.”

Leading the capital’s drive for new homes are the Inner London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Greenwich, which gave the go-ahead for 3,029 and 2,794 new homes respectively in the first half of 2015. Even the notoriously business-focused City of London approved 164 new residential homes – representing 100% of applications in the city itself.

By comparison, London’s suburban boroughs are lagging behind. Richmond-upon-Thames approved 52 new homes over the same six-month period, the lowest of any borough. Similarly, Kingston only granted 75 home approvals, with Hillingdon and Bexley also consenting to fewer than 100 new homes.

Planning rejection four times more likely for new homes in Outer London

Outer London authorities have refused a total of 4,160 potential new homes during the first half of 2015, or more than a third (34%) of applications in these boroughs.

By contrast, in the same six months Inner London refused to give permission for just 970 potential new homes, or a rejection rate of just 8% of all homes applied for in Inner London over the period.

On this basis, proposed new homes are more than four times (4.56 times) more likely to be rejected by planning authorities in Outer London than in Inner London.

Kingston is currently the harshest London borough in these terms, rejecting 70% of homes requested. Meanwhile, Hillingdon follows in second place, refusing 69% of homes requested in planning applications in H1 2015.

Such reluctance contrasts sharply with the receptivity of London’s inner boroughs to new homes. In particular Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Southwark, Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham are all rejecting less than 1-in-10 potential homes. Number one by this measure, Greenwich rejected just 1% of all homes featuring in H1 2015 planning applications, closely followed by refusals for just 2% of proposed new homes in Tower Hamlets.

Andrew Bridges continues: “Sometimes proposed developments just aren’t appropriate, either in terms of softer community concerns or the harder economic interests of a local area. Local authorities have an important role in judging proposals on behalf of residents and communities, and simply waving through every single scheme without modification would be an extreme approach.

“But rejecting an extreme proportion of possible homes is also a hugely controversial approach. Local authorities should think about future and potential residents as much as they consider the past. Planning applications need to be judged against a plan – which means having a plan in the first place, to supply enough places for people to live.

“We simply can’t afford to lose so many new homes every year to the jaws of grey filing cabinets lurking in dark council archives. London’s suburban resistance is damaging the prospects of an entire generation, and it will come to define the looming Mayoral election. Housing can no longer be a soundbite – it must become a reality.”

Inner London also attracts more applications

Despite comprising only thirteen boroughs (including the City of London) Inner London received applications for marginally more homes than all the Outer London boroughs, with 12,944 in H1 2015.

Meanwhile Outer London, consisting of twenty boroughs, decided on applications representing 12,116 potential homes in the same period. This represents a 7% difference in the absolute number of potential homes between the two areas.

Andrew Bridges explains: “Inner London is more interesting for developers, just as its boroughs are more receptive to development. Central sites are able to host taller and denser developments. This suits builders in practical terms of management and economies of scale in the construction phase. Plus, homes nearer jobs do sell faster. This means there will always be a central gravity to London’s new homes industry – but given that longstanding attraction, the surprising fact is just how much potential remains so close to the centre.

“Put simply, there is a vast potential for new homes in Inner London – sites will always be hard to identify, but they exist in droves. The chief obstacle remains planning. And the chief opportunity is height, London’s secret weapon and most precious untapped resource. The rest of London can learn from Inner boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Greenwich, who are fast becoming masters of the potential in building skywards.”

Approvals decline across the first half of 2015

The total number of homes approved across Greater London in the first half of this year reflects an annualised figure of 39,860, significantly behind the 42,000 figure needed to make new government housing targets for London realistic.

However, within this there is a disappointing trend. On a comparable annualised basis Q1 2015 witnessed home approvals at a rate of 47,460 per year. However this has dropped by almost a third (32%) to a pace of 32,250 homes approved per year in Q2 2015.

Andrew Bridges concludes: “The distracting debate between either greenfield or brownfield sites has diverted attention from the fact there is space in London – it just needs to be further explored. Building more homes in the inner city is a great start, but it could be happening even faster. Meanwhile, even a marginal improvement from the Outer London boroughs would add significantly to these totals.

“London has potential. Last year we identified enough room for 500,000 new homes across Greater London, which would cover supply for a decade. If that is to become reality, this open, liberal and global city needs to develop an open mind to development and the dramatic benefits it can bring.”

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