London Housing Commission misses bigger pictures

The London Housing Commission have just produced a report Building a new deal for London. They should be supported in its aim “to identify sufficient land to deliver at least 50,000 homes per year for the next decade”. This 500,000 homes may be a reasonable target.

The commission also identifies problems with planning permission: “There are too few new planning permissions” and speed of delivery could be increased on sites where planning permission has been granted. Their suggestion to allow the boroughs to levy developers who have failed to meet agreed building targets may be helpful.  However, they may be missing bigger pictures.

First, at 51.3 people per hectare, London is over ten times as dense as the rest of the South East Region. There is plenty of land outside London with served by railway lines. Room for a population the size of London by taking only 10% of land in the South East Region.

Second, the Commission does not take fully into account the possibilities of a new approach to factory built kit homes and the use of robotics. There could be much less labour in the provision of homes, particularly of so-called kit homes.

Third, the Commission does not sufficiently acknowledge the role of planning permission in raising the price of houses. Land without planning permission costs roughly £500 for a plot big enough for a house and garden. I have just Googled a site in the Medway Towns priced at £2.7m. It is for 21 houses That’s over £100,000 per house. Since the land without planning permission would be only £500 per plot, the value of the planning permission must be over £100,000 per house.


Plenty of land and kit homes suggests the possibility of plotland development, which was suppressed by the 1947 Planning Act. What is needed now is a shock to the housing market: Mark out 500,000 or more plots of land and allow individuals to site their own kit homes or build their own – like my father did for the home I grew up in. ( )

Planning permission owned by individuals would cool the housing market – and open the land banks.

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