Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ken's Big Plans for More Housing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ken's Big Plans for More Housing

Article excerpt

THERE IS, in principle and in practice, much to be said in favour of the Mayor's plans for expanding the number of new homes. A panel of experts has given backing to his bid to increase by a third the number of houses and flats he wants to build as part of his London Plan, from roughly 230,000 to 300,000.

Plainly, the increase in the size of the capital's population means that more new homes are needed, and as a survey by the Greens on the London Assembly points out, the right-to-buy legislation for council tenants has meant that the amount of social housing available in London has actually gone down since 2000.

Further, the Mayor points out that most of the new developments will not be on greenfield sites and the vast bulk will be built in the Thames Gateway. He also wants a greater proportion of these to be larger family homes rather than small one- and twobedroom flats, since many families from ethnic minorities, especially Bangladeshis, live together in large families.

Certainly, the Thames Gateway, the area east of Tower Bridge, offers remarkable scope for development. But what is important is that the new housing estates do not simply become isolated dormitory settlements. They must be communities in their own right, with shops, churches, schools and community centres. Most importantly, they need excellent transport links with the centre of the capital, so that people living there will find it easy to take advantage of job opportunities in the City and elsewhere.

The trouble with the Thames Gateway plans to date is that it is by no means obvious that this social and physical infrastructure is in place - and without it, the scope for the new settlements to breed racial and social unrest is very real. Transport for London has already conducted an investigation into the scope for developments around stations, and this is the basis for some of the new projects: what of the rest?

It is also important that the Mayor's grandiose plans are genuinely conducted on the basis of cooperation with local boroughs. He says that only two boroughs, Islington and Redbridge, are taking exception to his proposals for new housing. …

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