New report reveals planning approval gaps in London

There is a huge chasm in London planning approval rates and a declining number of applications coming through the system, according to new research.

It is not helping the housing supply crisis in the capital where a lack of affordable homes being built is adding to the situation.

The report by the Built Environment Communications Group (BECG), which looked at approval rates in 33 planning committees in the 12 months to April 2019, reveals a 50% divergence in planning approval rates across the 33 London Borough planning committees.

Some London Boroughs, including Harrow, Kingston-upon-Thames and Tower Hamlets, had a 100% approval record during this period, while Ealing, Hackney and Wandsworth each approved 97% of their major applications.

In contrast, just 50% of applications were approved in Bromley and Lewisham and in Kensington and Chelsea it was just 57%.

The research also highlighted the steady decline in the number of applications coming forward for decision, with applications reported to councillors for a decision sharply down in the second half of the year.

Westminster has seen an almost 50% drop in major applications while in Kingston-upon-Thames almost half the planning committees across the full year were cancelled due to a lack of any applications being ready for decision.

Lewisham’s Strategic Planning Committee, which meets to consider the biggest applications in the borough, only had one application before it in the entire year initially refused, before being reconsidered and approved.

‘Our committee research comes at an important time, following May 2018’s local elections, and ahead of next year’s London Mayoral elections. Across London there remains an acute housing shortage, and many homes are unaffordable to residents, so we expect planning to be a prominent topic debated by the candidates,’ said Max Camplin, BECG director and head of London.

‘However, while being vital for London’s future social and economic success, delivery of housing across the capital is still very much dependent on the postcode location. The risk profile based on our performance data should give pause for a major developer if they are considering investing in one of the clusters of the worst performing London Boroughs,’ he pointed out.

‘Key issues continue to revolve around delivery of affordable housing contributions by developers, the provision of supporting infrastructure, design and height, all of which accounted for the failure of some of the most notable major applications in the past year,’ he added.