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Housing zones offer total regeneration

Most days I travel to work into London Bridge, the train passing Millwall FC’s ground.  

The industrial land around it provides few jobs but for decades has been home only to sheds.

Another, more intensive use for the land is obvious.

Just six minutes from central London, the area should play an important role helping London to meet its acute need for new homes.

More than 2,000 homes in fact, by re-designating the land from industrial to residential and building a new station on Transport for London’s successful London Overground.

That plan, to be called New Bermondsey, will now happen through the London’s housing zones initiative.

It is one of nine new housing zones designated by the mayor last week, covering 2,000 ha from Hounslow to Plumstead.

More zones will be named next month, selected from proposals by boroughs, with all 20 designated by this summer.

Straightforward goal

The programme’s aim is simple: to stimulate significantly more housebuilding in areas of huge development potential.

The offer is threefold.  

“Most of the GLA funding is recoverable and therefore can be recycled within and between zones to build more”

First, a structured framework for focused engagement, the Greater London Authority working with the borough, developers, transport bodies, utility companies – whoever – to make development happen.

Second, planning certainty, with some boroughs looking to establish special planning committee’s within zones and planning performance agreements to determine applications within statutory guidelines.

Finally, a flexible, recyclable, 10-year investment pot for each zone from the £400m being allocated by the mayor.

Range of investments

This money is available for more than bricks and mortar.

Within the nine zones are commitments for five bridges over road, rail and water, supporting numerous development plots; five station upgrades; loans to accelerate schemes; discrete land acquisitions; and a whole raft of other measures bespoke to each place. 

Every intervention locks in a commitment to build homes and levers around £9.2bn of other finance. 

Most of the GLA funding is recoverable and therefore can be recycled within and between zones to build more.

“A keen eye on design and landscaping, as well as providing other facilities in the zones will make these beautiful places to live”

Housing zone status will drive development and offers varied opportunities for the industry across the 52 schemes in the initial nine zones. 

A significant amount of purpose-built homes for rent and for shared ownership will offer attractive investment potential to financial institutions.

Total regen

Several publicly owned sites are being released (including two civic centres in Harrow and Hounslow), as part of a renewed drive around land. 

A keen eye on design and landscaping, as well as providing other facilities in the zones (five schools, three libraries, health facilities and even a church) will make these beautiful places to live.

It is, in a sense, total regeneration.

But above all, it will build at least 50,000 much-needed homes for London’s growing population at prices Londoners can afford. 

Richard Blakeway is deputy mayor for housing land and property

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