The anti-overdevelopment group Preserve held a press conference last Friday to discuss the Government’s proposed changes to planning law and housing targets.
MP Jon Cruddas explained that the Government hope to turn their plans into law this year and will keep everyone updated on details and timescales. The ‘takeaway’ is that, after taking away some of the Council’s housing powers, it is now threatening to openly give developers a freer hand in what they want to build i.e. a ‘Developer’s Charter’.
Cllr Graham Williamson focused on the housing target aspect of the Government plans and contrasted it with the London Mayor’s.
He noted that the Mayor’s London Plan was released over a week ago and will increase yearly Havering’s Housing Target from 1,170 units/year to 1,285 i.e. by an extra 10%.
The Government however will be expecting Havering to sign up to its own Housing Target. He says it means the boroughs will be put on ‘steroids’ by using what the Government calls the “standard method” (SM), based on excessive population projections, plus an additional top-up of 35%. The top-up is because its own MP’s in rural countries complained about increased targets so that the extra numbers will instead be imposed upon London boroughs (and 19 other cities’).
Thus the total housing target for Havering will be set at 2,666/year (some 120% higher than our present housing target!). He says, it is a serious threat to Havering resident’s quality of life and will lead to a) a massive overdevelopment of brownfield sites e.g. mass density and ever high tower blocks and b) a threat to the Greenbelt. It may be the final nail in the coffin of Havering as we know it.
Cllr Ray Morgan challenged the Government’s assumptions of drastic population increases. He noted that around 9% of London’s had left since Covid, the long term impact of Brexit, the Government’s ‘levelling up’ policy of moving institutions out of London, and the move to home-working, undermines their figures that are based upon projections from 2014.
Romford Civic Society Chairman, Andrew Curtin, reflected on the ‘abject humiliation for Havering Council of the recent reduction of its planning powers. He also criticised them for failing to unveil a Romford masterplan for development which has allowed developers to make up their own vision.
Business Director Julia Herold discussed her concerns that Havering will lose many of its local businesses and come to resemble a ‘dormitory borough’, with a large number of residents but commuting for work and leisure and other services.
There was finally a general discussion over concerns over the lack of funding for infrastructure, family sized units, and greater densities. All agreed that the present Council had been ‘asleep at the wheel’ over development matters and the next Administration must do better.