Outer London: Issues for the London Plan

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Outer London: Issues for the London Plan

May 2007

Outer London: Issues for the London Plan
May 2007


Greater London Authority May 2007

Published by

Greater London Authority City Hall The Queen’s Walk London SE1 2AA

www.london.gov.uk enquiries 020 7983 4100 minicom 020 7983 4458

ISBN: 978 1 84781 021 2

Cover images © TfL Visual Image Service and MPS.

Robin Thompson

Visiting Professor at the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London

Outer London: Issues for the London Plan

Executive Summary

Outer London now and in the future

Outer London plays a major role in the life of the capital. It houses 4.6 million people, 60% of London’ population. Its economy accounts for 36 % of the capital’s total GDP/output. 42% of London’s jobs are located in the 19 Outer London boroughs. Its population grew by about 8% over the past 20 years and is expected to grow by 10% over the next 20 – a further 466,000 people. There will be considerable change, including many more single person households, more retired people, more from minority ethnic communities and relatively fewer young people. Employment grew by 6% in the last 20 years and is projected to grow by about 11% over the next

20. These changes in Outer London’s economy and demography have deep rooted structural causes such as de-industrialisation, concentration of global finance and business growth sectors in the city centre and the growing popularity of inner city living with young professional people.

On most indicators, Outer London is healthier, wealthier and greener than Inner London and indeed most urban areas in the UK. Its residents overall are highly satisfied with life in their neighbourhood, but would like to see improvements on some very local environmental issues, including crime, litter and anti-social behaviour.

Investment in Outer London

The Mayor is making substantial strategic investment in long-term improvements for Outer London. Most of London’s major transport infrastructure schemes, including Crossrail and improvements to Thameslink, will benefit the suburbs, as will big investments in existing bus, Underground and rail services. Transport for London is spending £88m on local transport schemes in Outer London during the current year. TfL’s very substantial improvement in bus services has benefited Outer London in particular, given the role of buses in Outer London transport. The Mayor is dependent upon Government approval for many investment proposals, especially for larger scale transport infrastructure. Within the resultant financial constraints, the Mayor is proposing a very substantial increase in accessibility, of which a significant part will benefit Outer London directly or indirectly.

Five of the London Development Agency’s priority programs are in Outer London. The LDA runs a £15m pa Opportunities Fund that supports a wide variety of initiatives in Outer London and it spent almost £300m on work with boroughs in 2005/6. There are five Business Improvement District schemes in Outer London. In Outer London, police numbers in have increased by 25% since 2000 and £98m was spent last year on the Safer Neighbourhood schemes. 13 public open spaces in Outer London have been or will be improved under the Mayor’s 100 Public Spaces programme.

Policy support for Outer London

Overall, the Mayor does not promote a separate “Outer London policy” (any more than an Inner London policy). This does not mean a one size fits all approach: on the contrary, Outer London is a very varied set of places, which have differing policy needs. It also forms part of a major metropolitan area extending beyond London with which it has a vast number of essential links. The London Plan promotes a single group of objectives and policies for London as a whole, and then has regard to the way in which these will impact upon the suburbs. It seeks to address economic issues by focusing on job opportunities based on residential development, small and medium sized enterprises, improving the business environment in the suburbs, restructuring of the office market and promoting better access to the wider opportunities of the city region, including the Central Activities Zone. The key growth areas for Outer London will be town centres and ten defined Opportunity Areas.

Some stakeholders have pointed to higher population and housing growth than employment growth in Outer London over the next 20 years. They argue that, as a result, more and more resident workers in Outer London will have to seek jobs elsewhere, leading to a belief that transport systems in Outer London will be placed under further strains. However, there will be about 11% employment growth within Outer London over the next 20 tears and its resident workers will generally be well equipped to benefit from increasing job opportunities elsewhere in the London area.

Others have argued that the higher densities set out in the London Plan will threaten the loss of lower density housing that people in the suburbs like. London Plan and more local policies clearly value and protect open spaces, back gardens and other attractive features which characterise the suburban environment – there is no evidence to support accusations to the contrary. In rising to the London-wide challenge of accommodating some one million more people by 2025, the London Plan seeks to do so sensitively and selectively, sustaining the attractions of the suburbs, using new development to improve the environment and ensuring that it takes place in locations which contribute to wider objectives such as town centre renewal, encouraging use of public transport and creating more sustainable communities. The option of encouraging the spread of population outside London or into the Green Belt in order to protect existing densities is not realistically open to the Mayor.

The role of the boroughs

Many of the problems and concerns relating to the social and physical infrastructure of Outer London require “soft” measures such as re-skilling and the regular improvement and maintenance of the very local environment. They are not readily addressed by big infrastructure measures or by targeting priority areas and often need action at the local, borough level.

Three case studies demonstrate the potential for Outer London boroughs that take a positive approach to the future and seek to combine the accommodation of growth with high design quality and sustainable forms of development. They are all tailoring policy to their local circumstances.

Conclusions and recommendations

Outer London offers a generally high quality environment, which has proved itself to be flexible and adaptive to demographic, ethnic, social and economic change over its history. Change will continue, driven by forces that are beyond the powers of regional and local public policy and resources to fundamentally alter. The most realistic strategy is to manage these changes in ways that minimise problems and maximise the use of the resources that will be generated, in what will still be a population and employment growth area. The Mayor’s London Plan is at an early stage of implementation, but does offer a coherent approach to change, which addresses the challenges and opportunities facing Outer London within its wider spatial context. There is no evidence of an alternative strategy that is both coherent across all sectors and realistic about powers and resources

To refine the Mayor’s strategy a number of improvements in policy–making, institutional behaviours and coordination within and beyond the GLA group are suggested for consideration at the Examination in Public to further enhance the future of Outer London.


1 This report provides a picture of the current characteristics of Outer London, discusses how these are likely to change and identifies the policies and actions being taken by the GLA Group and the London Boroughs to tackle problems and seize opportunities. It is intended to assist in the consideration of future strategy for Outer London1.

2 Outer London is a critically important element in the city’s current and future performance. It houses 4.6 million people, 60% of London’s total and a population almost 5 times greater than Birmingham. Its economy accounts for 36 % of the capital’s total GDP/output. 42% of London’s jobs are located in the Outer boroughs2.

3 This study begins with a brief analysis of the main characteristics and trends of Outer London. It then describes the policies and actions of key agencies, which are trying to address Outer London’s future needs, including the work of the Mayor and of the boroughs, drawing upon three case studies. It then summarises some of the criticisms that have been made of current policy and actions for Outer London and some of the suggested alternatives. Finally, the study reaches some conclusions.

1 In particular, it offers evidence for use in the debate on the Outer London suburbs at the Examination in Public on the Further Alterations to the London Plan 2 Experian Business Strategies. Making Sense of the ABI dataset. GLAeconomics, 2006. See Annex 3

4 There is a range of definitions of Outer London. Figure 1 shows the definition of Outer London used in this report: 19 boroughs are included. It is the same definition as the Government uses for grant purposes, except that Newham is increasingly showing the characteristics associated with Inner London, and is classified accordingly3. Although diverse in nature, different parts of Outer London share important common attributes and the Mayor’s London Plan contains a set of policies for all of them.

5 Although the study concentrates upon Outer London, it is essential to understand that it forms an integral part of the wider South East, a huge metropolitan region of over 20 million people that is increasingly inter-dependent. We should think of Outer London as connecting strongly with Central and Inner London and with the Outer Metropolitan Area (OMA) and rather less strongly with the “rest of the Greater South East”, which forms the outermost part, Figure 2. In an era of advanced information technology and globalisation, academics now refer to major cities as spaces with “flows” or “networks” of people, goods and information rather than simply regarding cities as static places (Castells). Sir Peter Hall refers to the “mega city region” of the Greater South East of England as a metropolitan space with close connectivities across its whole area (Hall 1999).

3 This definition is used for most statistics in the report. Some sources use slightly different definitions: these differences are identified wherever possible

Outer London: present and future characteristics

1.1 The history of Outer London’s growth has been recorded elsewhere, notably in “City of Villages”, a report commissioned by the GLA in the build up to the first London Plan (Urbed)4. The result of its evolution is an enormous diversity of places, belying the lazy stereotype of “anonymous suburbs”. Its residents know that each part of Outer London has its own environment, feeling and activity and that these will be quite different from other parts. Polls suggest that its residents have a powerful attachment to their own local area despite (or perhaps because of) its location in a vast metropolis.

Living in Outer London

1.2 The Ward Atlas of London describes the city in terms of a multitude of characteristics.5 It shows that Outer London boroughs have quite distinctive shared sets of characteristics. Compared to the rest of the city they tend, for example, to have a more stable population, fewer single households and more people of retirement age. Their residents are healthier, better educated and more economically active. They are more likely to be owner-occupiers and less likely to suffer over-crowding.

1.3 The population of Outer London is estimated to have grown by about 8% over the 20 years 1986-2006, Figure 3, Annex 1. Like London as a whole, Outer London is projected to experience a substantial increase in both population and housing in the period up to 2026, Figure 4. The population of Outer London is expected to grow by about 10%: a further 466,000 people to a total of about 5 million by 2026, Annex 2.

1.4 There is projected to be 334,000 more households (Annex 2), partly because the tendency towards smaller household sizes will be slightly more pronounced in Outer London than in the rest of the capital. Over the next twenty years, lone person households are expected to comprise no less than 78% of net household growth. While the numbers of married couples are expected to decline, numbers of co­habiting couples, lone parents and ‘other adult’ households are expected to increase. However, growth rates among all age groups in outer London are projected to be lower than in inner London, especially among the younger cohorts. Extraordinarily, the number of 15-34 year olds is expected to decline, Figure 5.

4 URBED. City of Villages. SDS Technical Report 11. GLA, 2003. This offered a typology, which sought to reflect the diversity of types of place in the suburbs 5 GLA Data Management and Analysis Group. A 2001 Ward Atlas of London. DMAG Briefing 2006­

23. GLA, 2006

1.5 Although the population has been relatively more stable than the rest of London, there is evidence of considerable “churn” in the make up of the outer suburbs. In the past there has been a continuing migration of people into Outer London from inner areas and a migration out from Outer London to the Outer Metropolitan Area.

1.6 Figure 6 suggests there now appears to be a shift in which younger people and professional classes are tending to move into the regenerating areas of Central and Inner London 6. This appears to be a trend common to England’s main cities (Parkinson). Another significant change in Outer London has been the growth of the minority ethnic population, often in strong local communities. Figure 7 shows the growth in the black and ethnic minority population in recent years. This is a valuable source of enrichment of the variety and resources of Outer London. It requires responses to the particular needs of each community in terms, for example, of social, retail, cultural and personal services.

1.7 In general, income levels in Outer London are relatively high with workers in the medium earning groups especially well represented. Figure 8 shows that higher levels of deprivation are mainly concentrated in Inner London boroughs. Many Outer London boroughs rank amongst the least deprived local authorities in the country7.

1.8 Figure 9 shows that key benefit claimant rates are considerably lower than in Inner London. Nevertheless, there are some significant areas of deprivation in Outer London, especially to the east, and life can be particularly stressful for those on low incomes or with limited mobility because access to key services is often more difficult than in Inner London. Moreover, child poverty is significantly (35%) above the national average (30%), although below that for inner London (52%).

6 Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Project Report on London. Cabinet Office, 2004 7 ODPM. Index of Multiple Deprivation. ODPM, 2004

1.9 There are exceptionally high levels of educational attainment compared to both Inner London and the country as a whole. Exam results in maintained schools in Outer London are above the national average and well above those in Inner London. Outer London has a 78% participation in post 16 education compared to 70% in Inner London and 71% in England. Outer London boroughs generally have fewer people with long - term illnesses than the rest of London8


1.10 The Census shows that in absolute terms between 1961 and 2001, Outer London made a greater contribution than Inner to increasing London’s housing stock and contained the majority (60%) of London’s stock in 2001. However, its contribution to the increase in housing stock has been decreasing since 1981. This has implications for the future vitality of Outer London and for meeting the housing needs of Londoners as a whole. In the formation of the 2004 London Plan, Outer London boroughs identified only enough capacity to contribute 39% to the capital’s then expected gain in stock. On average, over the last three years, Outer London’s share of actual new provision has exceeded this target (47%)9. The future will be more challenging. New targets10 require Outer London to contribute at least 43% of pan

8 GLA. 2001 Census Ward Atlas of London. GLA DMAG, 2006: Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge are to some degree an exception to this 9 GLA. Housing Provision in London 2005/6: Annual Monitor. GLA, 200710 Mayor of London. Alterations to London Plan 2006. GLA, 2006

London provision to 2016, in absolute terms an increase in output from 10,060 homes pa in the 2004 Plan to 13,070 pa

1.11 The standard of housing in Outer London is relatively good. Two thirds of dwellings in Outer London are houses rather than flats. However, concerns have been expressed about the potential need for renovation, especially of some of its lower standard housing, as suburbs move into their second century of life (Hall 2006i) although there is limited evidence to suggest that this is currently a substantial problem. With lower income households living in relatively high value homes, with limited availability of improvement grants, there is a critical need to use asset value to support maintenance and improvement.

1.12 More than two thirds (68%) of Outer London residents are owner-occupiers, compared with 40% in Inner London, and significantly fewer live in publicly or privately rented accommodation, figure 10. In most Outer London boroughs, the proportion of existing social housing is well below the London 25% average. There is a significant shortage of affordable housing in Outer London. In total 9,800 affordable homes were completed in Outer London over the three years up to and including 2005/6, equivalent to 34% of total provision – well below the Mayor’s 50% pan London target but above the 30% achieved in Inner London. This generally inadequate response will have detrimental effects upon the housing prospects of some residents and upon the availability of a range of labour skills to support their economies11.

1.13 A number of outer London boroughs still have policy targets below the London Plan 50% target, and some boroughs have achieved less than 25% affordable outturn over the last three years. In some cases social rent outturn is less than 15% of total new homes. While some Outer London boroughs are still providing some new family homes in the market sector, there has nevertheless been a significant decline in the proportion of new homes which are 3 bed homes or larger and a switch in built form from houses to flats.

1.14 Problems in gaining access to housing may explain, for example, why teacher vacancies are higher in Outer London than in the country as a whole12. Moreover the reduced availability of affordable family housing contributes to the out migration of families from outer London to the Home Counties and beyond.

Outer London Economy

1.15 Outer London remains an important part of the London economy, accounting for 36% of the capital’s output in 2004 (Annex 3). Table A.1 shows that Outer London enjoyed a better employment record during the 1980s than Central London. During the 1990s, however, the suburbs showed only modest increases in employment compared to the Inner, Central and Outer Metropolitan areas. Most recently total jobs have averaged a small decline, less than in the Central area and reflecting the post-2000 economic slowdown in the capital.

11 Mayor of London. London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 3. GLA, 2007 12 Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Analytical Report to the London Project Report. Cabinet Office, 2004





Central London (City and Westminster)




Inner London (exc City & Westminster)




Outer London




Outer Metropolitan Area*



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