Strategies, Strategies…

This spring and early summer of 2017 the Mayor of London is mainly writing strategies. Lots of them. Just Space and its member-groups are joining in as far as we are allowed.

Last Autumn, 2016, he issued A City for All Londoners which summarised his plans for London. This was the subject of a series of consultation events with ‘invited stakeholders’. These meetings were transcribed and published; the whole process has been a great improvement on what happened under both the previous mayors. Whether this is a direct result of Just Space proposals and demands over the last 2 years, we don’t know, but we are pleased.

Just Space had been seeking ‘co-production’ of strategies between the mayor’s staff and community groups. That’s not happening but the GLA officers are taking part in a lot of meetings during the plan-writing period, some hosted by the GLA, others by Just Space. We’ll summarise these here, and post reports as they become available.

Housing: Just Space fielded a diverse and representative team to meet with senior GLA housing staff on 31 March to discuss the scope and content of the Mayor’s Housing Strategy and the housing aspects of the London Plan. There was good news on community-led forms of housing (co-ops, co-housing, community land trusts and so on) which will benefit from a construction budget and a proposed “hub” service to advise and support groups setting out on innovative projects. There were clarifications on many other housing topics, including some where there are strong disagreements like concepts and definitions of various levels of rent and the priority to be attached to social rent housing, on grounds both of affordability and security. There was discussion too of plans for private renting, wider housing needs (older persons, travellers, black and minority ethnic communities) and new powers to be sought in the next round of devolution. Detailed notes of the meeting, agreed between Just Space and the GLA, are here (PDF).

On the Economy, there are 3 meetings. At a first one Just Space people representing community groups defending workspace, small businesses and manufacturing presented a powerful case for ending the losses of workspaces in London, especially outside the centre, to protect the diversity of the economy in the face of Brexit, to protect local jobs and reduce the need to travel. At a second, which the GLA hosted as a formal part of its consultation, there was a focus on fairness, one of the new mayor’s agenda words. A third meeting focused on skills, training and productivity. The discussions should influence the mayor’s London Economy Strategy, aspects of the London Plan and the local work of the regeneration and housing/land teams in Opportunity Areas.

There have been two meetings on Environment: one at FOE, a second on making London a more circular economy (in which waste is minimised, unwanted outputs from all activities being re-used as inputs by others), and on making London a more blue-green city, making the best of green areas and links and of waterways and water management. These discussions will feed into the mayor’s London Environment Strategy and also into the London Plan. Just Space had made careful responses earlier this year to the draft Scoping Study on the Integrated Impact Assessment which will be prepared alongside and as a part of the strategy.

There has also been a meeting between Just Space and some member groups and the GLA team working on the Health Inequalities Strategy.

Finally, there will shortly be a meeting between Just Space and the London Plan team (now led by Jennifer Peters, following the retirement of John Lett who has anchored London strategic planning since before the GLA was even formed). The London Plan is the crucial document for two reasons: it links all the other strategies, and especially their spatial (geographical) integration and it is subject to a more adequate democratic consultation process including public hearings next year. Just Space has already commented on the Scoping Study for the Integrated Impact Assessment of the London Plan, calling for changes in the process and the evaluation of a community-generated 4th alternative strategy London Plan IIA Scoping Report- comments by Just Space March 2017

Just Space has (in August 2017) presented a concise statement of the community-based alternative strategy, which the GLA is now considering for evaluation against 3 other options.

Below is a list of all the Strategies currently being revised or re-written. The links are to the previous versions except for Police and Crime which has already been revised and adopted and Transport, the draft of which is now out for consultation.

A complete topic-by-topic list of Just Space activities and submissions is to be found under the Next London Plan menu above.

Consultation by UCL Engineering Exchange: Green Infrastructure for London – A Review of the Evidence

Green Infrastructure Report for Review has been prepared for Just Space and London Sustainability Exchange and is out for open community consultation until 23 April 2017. It is a draft and should not be quoted. Both Just Space and Engineering Exchange welcome your feedback. To influence the Just Space observations, please forward your comments to Robin Brown before 23 April: .   Please see the Next London Plan: Environment page for some more details.

Impact Assessment: is it real?

Planning documents have to be the subject of impact assessments which evaluate them against a whole set of requirements and criteria – environmental, equalities and so on. These assessments are supposed to be an integral part of the planning process, enabling plans to be modified and improved in the light of the results.

In the new spirit of better consultation, City Hall has consulted Just Space on the Scoping Reports which set out the briefs for these assessments – which are now combined as “Integrated Impact Assessments” (IIAs).  We welcome these opportunities to input community points of view at the formative stage and we commented some weeks ago on the one about the Mayor’s Environment Strategy. Our comments were posted here. And another on Transport.

We have now been able to comment on the scoping report on the IIA for the London Plan itself. We do have major reservations about it: whether the current draft version will explore the right issues, whether it takes on board the comments made at the Stakeholder Workshops held last November and whether the draft Plan will be able to take advantage of the findings before it goes to press.  Since the IIA is due to be published at the same time as the draft London Plan this seems impossible.  You can read the Just Space comments here (PDF) London Plan IIA Scoping Report- comments by Just Space March 2017

This post may be expanded in the coming days.

Estate regeneration: start again

Consultations have ended (March 2017) on the mayor’s draft Good Practice Guide on Estate Regeneration. First impressions are that a strong group of resident, community and other organisations are severely critical of this draft.

The Just Space response is strongly critical but proposes a co-production approach to writing a better version.  The key points are:

  1. Good practice guidance would be valuable, but this draft guidance is not good.
  2. Just Space wants to continue working with the Mayor to improve it through a process of co-production with officers, Assembly Members and key stakeholders.
  3. Top priority must be to protect the dwindling stock of social rented homes – the only ones affordable to Londoners on ordinary incomes (and even then often needing housing benefit to do so). Regeneration schemes should never lead to a reduction in social rented housing as they have in the past and continue to do.
  4. Decisions on estate regeneration must always include a refurbishment option among those explored.
  5. Consultations must be supported by transparent information and independent impact assessments and take place from the earliest stage, conforming to the rules affirmed by the Supreme Court.
  6. Any regeneration scheme which would involve demolition or displacement must be supported by a majority in an independent ballot of residents.

Read the full Just Space response:

Continue reading

Affordable housing

JustSpace is resisting the switch of resources away from meeting the most pressing housing needs and urging the Mayor to stick to his manifesto commitments about “genuine affordability”. We are also concerned that the proposal to grant privileges and exemptions to big firms which build privately for rent are ill-considered and should not be introduced in what is only a guidance document.

The full Just Space submission on the Mayor’s draft is here below or you can download a PDF which is better for printing.  The Mayor’s draft SPG is here. A response by George Turner, concentrating on “viability” assessment on which he is specially expert, is on his web site OurCity.London here.  Response by the expert 35% campaign is here. The London Tenants Federation response is here: LTF response to Housing affordablity and viability spg (F)

Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) 

Continue reading