Majority of major housing planning applications in the capital approved following London elections

A new report by BECG has revealed that two-thirds of London boroughs have approved all major residential applications determined in 2022 - a significant increase on the previous three years.

Related topics:  Construction,  planning,  London,  development
Property | Reporter
21st February 2023
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Whilst the overall London picture is positive, figures show that May’s elections had a significant impact on boroughs which changed political control, where a higher number of applications were refused against planning officer advice

Last year, London experienced its biggest turnover in political leadership in over a decade, with three boroughs changing leadership and seven boroughs changing political control. More broadly, an area where post-election change is most felt is within planning committees with 60% of members being new to the committee and over half having new committee chairs.

This has had an impact in two ways. Firstly, committees appear to be more willing to accept officer recommendation than ever, with 22 boroughs approving every major planning application put to them last year. We think this is partly due to the new members not yet having the experience or confidence to go against officer advice.

Conversely, every borough that changed hands politically refused applications against officer recommendations, both before the election where they were under more political pressure, and after, where political priorities changed.

The top lines from the report are:

22 boroughs approved every major planning application coming to committee this year, a record for our data.

There was however a strong correlation between high levels of refusals and electoral change. Refusals came both in the run-up to the elections, where political tensions were heightened, with committees more nervous about the electoral impact of decisions, and post-election, where new administrations had different priorities or a lack of strong leadership.

The boroughs with most approvals are similar to previous years, with Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Greenwich, Hounslow and Lewisham all performing well.

The most improved borough is Haringey, which has finally emerged from the post-HDV hangover to become more receptive to development. As a result, they approved more than 4,000 new homes this year, having failed to achieve even a tenth of that in each of the previous three years.

9,505 homes were brought to committees in 2022, with 43,646 being approved. This contrasts with 48,534 coming to committee in 2021, 53,550 in 2020 and 47,238 in 2019.

40% of all new homes approved were affordable in 2022, with the top 6 boroughs in terms of overall delivery all hitting over 35%. Of those boroughs delivering more than 500 units, only Havering and Hillingdon delivered fewer than 30% across the year.

Sarah Wardle, Commenting on the report, BECG’s Head of London said: “This data, along with the information we have gathered from each of the past four years at London’s committees demonstrates that there isn’t a significant political desire in most boroughs to overturn officer recommendations at committee. There are some boroughs, however, where development is more politically contentious, where refusals are more common.

“The bigger issue for all of us who want to lessen London’s housing crisis, is the quantity of housing being approved through London’s committees. Even if all these homes were to be built out, we are still falling well short of what is required if the London Plan targets are to be met.

“While this report doesn’t measure the amount of completions in the capital, it does point to a lack of supply coming to the market in the next few years. If we are to solve London’s housing shortages, we are going to have to see many more applications coming through committees in the years ahead.”

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