BusinessLDN sets out blueprint for London’s post-pandemic urban environment
BusinessLDN’s flagship Place Commission of cross-sector business leaders has set out a new vision for how the capital’s places and spaces should evolve following the pandemic to enable people to thrive and businesses to succeed.
The report, developed after a year of deliberations with the 20 senior businesses that form the Commission and backed by in-depth research and analysis from Deloitte — explores the evolution of the capital’s urban environment through the lenses of people and spaces, sustainability and innovation. It sets out a bold vision for a 21st century London that is a more affordable, digitally-enabled and greener city.
The Commission identified six key areas for action: transport, housing, sustainability, digitalisation, placemaking and managing change. It anticipates these will define the capital’s urban environment over the next decade based on a set of assumptions that, amongst things, London’s population will continue to grow to 10 million by 2050, hybrid working remains for the foreseeable future and businesses will continue to value a headquarter presence in the capital.
Its recommendations include: ensuring Transport for London (TfL) has sufficient funding to deliver the investment needed to drive growth in London and the UK economy and supporting wider decarbonisation objectives; a plan for retrofitting homes, particularly owner-occupied homes; the creation of a new transparent process for private sector funding to support additional planning resource; and reviewing Green Belt land to identify poor-quality sites for housebuilding.
John Dickie, Chief Executive at BusinessLDN, said: “For London to thrive and remain a world-leading city, we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the capital’s places and spaces following the pandemic. The urban environment is the backbone of the city, and it is vital to delivering economic growth and attracting the best talent from around the globe. The Commission’s wide-ranging recommendations would help deliver more affordable homes, create better transport connectivity and support London’s transition to net zero. These are all vital to creating a capital that works for business, for Londoners and for the whole of the UK.”
Looking at the Commission’s recommendations in more detail:
On transport, the Commission highlights the importance to London’s physical and economic growth of enhancing and expanding TfL’s network. The Commission calls for:
A new long-term funding settlement for TfL ahead of its current deal expiring at the end of March 2024 to support investment in the transport network. In 2024/25, TfL can fund over three-quarters of its total capital investment requirement but needs £475 million central government funding to honour its existing contracts.
A new approach to transport fares to remove complexity and reduce cost, which looks at public transport as more than just a means of getting from A to B but as an enabler of multiple public policy goals – supporting social mobility, driving economic growth and reducing carbon emissions.
London government to prioritise the capital projects it is seeking to bring forward and agree a devolutionary agreement with central government about the grants from central government and local mechanisms that can be used to fund and finance them.
On housing supply, London needs 66,000 more homes every year to attract talent from across the globe and retain those already living in the city. Since the introduction of a housebuilding target in the first London Plan in 2004, it has only been achieved seven times. To help meet demand, the Commission is calling for:
A clear, long-term Mayoral housing strategy that comes with the commensurate powers and resources to deliver a step-change in housebuilding in London.
More and more long-term public funding for affordable housing to plug the annual £4.4bn gap between government grant and the investment required to deliver number of affordable homes London needs, which must be accompanied by a strategy and specific policies to attract greater levels of private investment into affordable housing
London’s green belt should be reviewed with the poor-quality parts which are close to existing or future transport hubs redesignated for high-quality, well-designed homes that incorporate truly accessible green space.
On decarbonisation, the capital’s buildings make up two-thirds (68%) of all emissions with more action required to meet London’s ambitious 2030 net zero target. The Commission is calling for:
A building’s net zero performance to be based on its various stages of life, from construction to demolition – a so-called ‘whole-life cycle carbon assessment’.
London government to devise and oversee a plan for retrofitting homes in the capital and, within that plan, prioritise a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to retrofitting owner-occupied homes.
A building’s net zero performance to be based on its various stages of life, from construction to demolition – a so-called ‘whole-life cycle carbon assessment’. London government to devise and oversee a plan for retrofitting homes in the capital and, within that plan, prioritise a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to retrofitting owner-occupied homes.
On managing change, London is lumbering under the weight of continual and often confusing national planning reform and struggling with a chronic lack of resource. The capital also requires a refresh of its governance arrangements for the urban environment, both in relation to central government and within London itself. That’s why the Commission is calling for:
A new transparent mechanism to be developed for applicants to provide additional funding to support the hiring or more planners in Local Planning Authorities to speed up the planning process.
The Greater London Authority, London Councils and other stakeholders to review if London’s governance structures and approach to London-wide issues relating to the capital’s urban environment are fit for purpose.
Francis Salway, Chair of the BusinessLDN Place Commission and former Chief Executive of Landsec, said: “International cities operate in a highly competitive environment, and London’s place in the hierarchy of world cities cannot be taken for granted. It is essential that London has the right systems in place to enable the city to flourish, supporting organic change and not being overly prescriptive about how things are done. London has demonstrated its ability to evolve its urban environment in the past and must do so again – at pace.”
Simon Burnett, Director at Deloitte, said: “The Place Commission’s work tackles many important issues that are vital to London’s long-term success. We see on a day-to-day basis the changing nature of London’s built environment and how it needs to evolve to attract and retain talent whilst achieving sustainable growth. We are pleased that our research and insights could help inform the Commission’s deliberations around the growth and evolution of London as a diverse and world-leading city.”
Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, said: “The pandemic had a huge effect on life and the capital as we know it, and it’s vital that we re-examine how London’s places and spaces should evolve. Investment in transport, affordable housing and decarbonisation are key to London delivering economic growth and remaining a global leader for business and talent. The Commission’s work contributes valuable thinking on how the capital can continue to thrive and flourish, ensuring a greener, fairer and safer London for all.”
Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “We welcome the recommendation in this report that a new long-term Government funding settlement should be agreed. Every major transport authority around the world receives Government investment for capital investment, and London is now an outlier — even among UK cities — in not having agreed long-term capital support. Our work on delivering the Elizabeth line, the Overground extension to Barking Riverside and the extension of the Northern line to Battersea have all shown the power of transport investment both to London and the wider UK. Such projects provide new connectivity, boost accessibility, and support new homes, jobs and economic growth.”
Tor Burrows, Executive Director, Sustainability and Innovation, Grosvenor, said: “Decarbonisation isn’t just essential for the planet or helping London adapt to the effects of climate change. The green economy could be worth $10 trillion by 2050. Through progressive policies and action we have the opportunity to put the UK at the forefront of the global green agenda, delivering leadership, jobs and growth. This report provides an exciting new blueprint to help London retain its role as a leading global capital working for the good of the whole of the UK.
The Place Commission held its first meeting in May 2022 and last in February 2023. The principal question it has sought to address is: how should London’s urban environment evolve to help people thrive and business to succeed?
The Place Commission consisted of:
Debbie Akehurst, Chief Executive, Central District Alliance
John Anderson, Chief Investment Officer, Imperial College London
Harry Badham, Chief Development and Asset Repositioning Officer, Hammerson
Virginia Blackman, Principal and National Head of Site Assembly & Compulsory Purchase, Avison Young
Nick Brindley, Partner, Gerald Eve
Tor Burrows, Executive Director of Sustainability & Innovation, Grosvenor
John Dickie, Chief Executive, BusinessLDN
Kathryn Firth, Director, Arup
Pete Gladwell, Group Social Impact & Investment Director Legal & General Capital
Simon Harding-Roots, Managing Director for London, The Crown Estate
Paul Hewlett, Director of Strategy and Corporate Development, Workspace
Peter Hogg, London City Executive, Arcadis
Alan Holland, Managing Director, Greater London SEGRO
John Mulryan, Group Managing Director, Ballymore
Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH)
Reena Patel, Partner, Gowling WLG
Francis Salway, Visiting Professor in Practice at the LSE, former CEO of Landsec
Jeremy Spencer, Director, Marketing and Communications, BAI Communications