The Mayor’s Outer London Commission: Report

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June 2010

The Mayor’s Outer London Commission: Report

June 2010

The Mayor’s Outer London Commission: Report

Greater London Authority

June 2010

Published by Greater London Authority

City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, More London

London SE1 2AA

enquiries 020 7983 4100

minicom 020 7983 4458

ISBN 978-1-84781-378-7

Copies of this report are available from



Executive summary

1 Introduction



Terms of reference

2 Survey


Historic context

Demand side

Supply side





Quality of Life

Future trends

Stakeholder views

3 Analysis

Scale and sources of growth

A new spatial structure for growth?

Making the most of existing places

Quality of Life


4 ‘Plan’ – Recommendations

Spatial structures

Demography and housing



Labour market


Quality of Life

The Future


Annex 1: Commission’s ‘First Thoughts’ paper

Annex 2: Initial consultation questions

Annex 3A: Interim employment trends

Annex 3B: Final employment trends

Annex 3C: Home Counties Employment

Annex 4: Economically active population trends

Annex 5A: Housing trends

Annex 5B: Net completions for inner and outer London

Annex 5C: Compliance with the London Plan Housing Density Matrix

Annex 6A: Health infrastructure benchmarks

Annex 6B: Social infrastructure maps

Annex 6C: Borough school roll projections

Annex 7: Office development trends

Annex 8: Respondents to the Outer London Commission


Dear Mr Mayor

I have pleasure in submitting the final report of the Outer London Commission. It outlines the work we have undertaken and the research and consultation responses on which we have drawn in coming to our conclusions, and then sets out our findings and recommendations.

It is clear that outer London has many strengths and huge potential on which it can build in ensuring it takes its place in supporting the future prosperity of those living and working there and, indeed, of the capital as a whole. Among its key assets are the imagination and hard work of those working on the ground, many of whom we have met during our work.

In submitting this report I would like to thank my fellow Commissioners – and those in the GLA group, who supported them - for all their hard work and commitment in enabling this report to be presented

William McKee
Chair, Outer London Commission

Executive summary

Purpose of the Commission

The Mayor set up the Outer London Commission to:

1 “Identify the extent to which outer London has unrealised potential to contribute to London’s economic success, identify the factors which are holding it back and recommend policies and proposals for the future development of outer London to the Mayor for inclusion in the London Plan and other GLA group strategies and guidance. These should include:

• Ways of encouraging employment growth in outer London.

• Ways of identifying, and supporting the development of economic growth hubs in outer London.

• The role of town centres and town centre based initiatives such as business improvement districts and town centre partnerships.

• The role that heritage and urban design issues might play.

• The links between housing, retail, office based and other types of employment and development in outer London.

• Links between economic success and improving quality of life in outer London, and ways of managing these effectively.

• Infrastructure and other supporting investment required to support economic growth in outer London.

• Methods of funding such infrastructure and investment.

• Identify issues that are presented by the relationship between outer, inner and central London”.

Working arrangements

2 The Commission was composed of 14 individuals with extensive experience in London business, local government, development, planning, design, academic geography, transport and the voluntary sector and chaired by Will McKee CBE. Its secretariat was provided by GLA Group officers.

3 The Commission had a distinctive method of operation, testing propositions iteratively, as they emerged from its work, by calling not just on the expertise of its members and its own research, but also by drawing on and informing work being undertaken at the same time to develop a common evidence base for the Mayor’s Economic Development and Transport strategies and the London Plan. Uniquely, it carried out an extensive programme of consultation with the main stakeholders in the outer London economy through:

• a series of ‘meetings in public’ in each of the different quadrants of the capital;

• over 30 ‘one to one’ or small group meetings, and

• a structured ‘call for evidence’.

4 The Commission wishes to place on record its appreciation for all these contributions – they added a new dimension to understanding the ambitions, challenges and experiences of those engaged in realising the potential of outer London.

5 We have sought to collate a robust evidence base to support and develop our conclusions. In reaching our final conclusions and recommendations we have followed the familiar process of survey, analysis and policy-making so readers can follow the steps we have taken in making our recommendations.

Benchmark trends

6 From the outset it was clear that outer London’s potential to contribute to the wider economy could not be measured simply in terms of the number of jobs there. These were of course the key concern of the Commission (both as a focus of its terms of reference, and as they account for over 40 per cent of the capital’s jobs). But other factors were also crucial, not least because outer London is home to 60 per cent of all Londoners, two fifths of whom work outside the area and help give most parts of it a higher economic activity rate than inner London. However, this dependence on commuting, coupled with relatively low local employment growth, has given rise to what was the key concern for many consultees - that outer London has been relegated to a dormitory suburb role, and its local economies neglected, with the thrust of metropolitan policy focused on growth in central London.

7 At least in terms of economic trends, there is some substance to these concerns – on average over the last two economic cycles only 2,800 jobs pa have been generated in outer London compared with 5,100 pa in inner London and 36,000 pa in the ‘home counties’. Moreover, this overarching trend conceals very substantial variation between boroughs and smaller but still significant differences between their performances in different cycles. Over the whole period 1989 – 2007, five outer boroughs were above the pan London average trend, four above the outer London average, one below the average but positive and nine had negative growth.

8 A key task for the Commission was therefore to establish reasonable future employment trends or benchmarks against which it could test measures which might generate higher growth. As well as collating five data sources on the historic trend to inform this process, the Commission also drew on three sets of employment projections. In examining them it was mindful not just of the effects of the recent recession and of the need to relate them to the wider economy, but also of the perception of some consultees that low projections led to low infrastructure investment and so reinforced low growth. Account was also taken of the axiom that in using projections it is better to be broadly right than precisely wrong.

9 The projections ranged from a simple extrapolation of the historic trend (2,800 more jobs pa); a somewhat dated triangulation of trend, development capacity and transport accessibility (10,000); a more up-to-date top down forecast (10,500) and the current draft London Plan projection which incorporates trend data anticipating the onset of the recent recession and up-to-date estimates of development capacity and public transport accessibility (6,000 pa).

Sources of future growth

10 In exploring potential sources of growth above trend the Commission found it useful to distinguish conceptually between:

• those based on existing sectors (‘endogenous’ growth) which have contributed to the trends outlined above, but which might have capacity to perform more effectively if constraints on their cumulative performance were addressed, and

• those which for convenience might be termed ‘exogenous’ sources of growth. These might be either strategically significant, largely new activities or existing activities capable of a step change in performance.

New spatial structures

11 The Commission’s brief required it to identify and test new spatial structure which might help lift outer London’s economy above trend.

The ‘super-hub’ concept

12 The Commission’s brief suggested that as a working proposition, there might be four ‘super-hubs’, one in each quadrant of outer London, perhaps based on the Heathrow area, Brent Cross/Cricklewood, Croydon and Stratford. The concept was intended to identify centres where proposals for development could complement other business centres by providing the potential to generate a distinct offer of greater than sub regional importance (most existing business centres in outer London are, at best, of only sub-regional significance). In practice we have concluded that to be successful, hubs of this kind would have to support high density business agglomerations or clusters to found the basis of a virtuous circle of public investment (particularly in transport infrastructure) and wider growth. This pointed to office-based activities generating rental values of more than £25-£30/sq ft and on a scale substantially above that anticipated in any of the benchmark employment projections – say double the 300,000-400,000 sq m usually taken as the basis for an office quarter with a distinct mass and identity, with capacity, say, for 50,000 new office jobs.

13 On the face of it such a proposition might not seem implausible – after all, Canary Wharf has gone from virtually zero to over 90,000 new jobs in two decades and the ‘Home Counties’ have recorded an average of 36,000 more jobs pa over two economic cycles.

14 However, closer analysis raised substantial doubts. Most of the office growth projected for the London Plan is expected to come from relatively low value added local services spread across outer London – not the sort of relatively high value jobs required to pay rents justifying strategically significant private office development in a few small areas. While a few parts of outer London have experienced significant office new build in the past, even two hubs of say 600,000 sq m each would approximate to 23 years of historic gross average output across the whole of outer London (and this is on a generous definition of what constitutes growth in office space).

15 Nevertheless, the Commission was mindful that it had to look beyond historic trends to see if there was potential for ‘exogenous’ growth. It therefore examined the applicability of a series of different potential models or proxies for ‘super hubs’ – Heathrow and other outer London centres with a history of significant growth, Canary Wharf in inner London and office centres in the wider south east, as well as modelling the transport implications of the concept. These either did not meet the ‘super-hub’ criteria outlined above or were not realistic propositions in the distinct circumstances of outer London.

16 The Commission was primarily concerned with technical considerations bearing on the economic realism of ’super-hubs’. However, it was also mindful that development proposals on this scale would have to be ‘owned’ by the key stakeholders – the response from boroughs in particular suggested that this was unlikely. Thus, though the testing exercise did not lead to the Commission endorsing the concept, it did provide valuable insight into other parts of its work.

Strategic outer London development centres

17 While the Commission concluded that it could not endorse the idea of ‘super hubs’, the testing exercise did show that there was scope for smaller increments to existing capacity (and improvements to its quality) in some competitive locations with distinct types or scales of activity (or mix of activities). To avoid compromising the viability of capacity in other centres, these would have to be of more than sub-regional importance and with the potential for further development both within the centres themselves and in their hinterlands. This concept could be applied to a wider range of business clusters than the office based ‘super-hubs’, including leisure/tourism, media, logistics, industry, higher/further education and retailing. The Commission recommends that its initial list of these clusters be left open to be refined through the Draft Replacement London Plan preparation process, and we are pleased to see the concept taken forward in the draft Plan’s policy on ‘strategic outer London Development centres’.

Extending into the Green Belt?

18 The Commission considered whether strategic extensions of provision for business activity in to the Green Belt was necessary to realise the economic potential of outer London. We have concluded that as a strategic principle this was unnecessary and wasteful in terms of the use of land and existing infrastructure.

Making the most of existing places

19 As well as exploring new types of business location, the Commission also investigated the performance of existing planning structures and ways in which they could more effectively realise outer London’s potential to contribute to the metropolitan economy. An over-arching theme was the importance of using a ‘star and cluster’ based approach to coordinating development, and within this to ensure that town centres develop as its fundamental building block.

Inter and intra-regional working

20 The Commission was very conscious that London is part of a much wider city region and of the need for the planning system to address this in a concrete way if outer London is to realise its potential. This is most apparent for transport - as well as the need for strategic coordination of limited transport capacity, there is particular growth in out-commuting which must be encouraged to move towards public transport. It extends to the wider coordination of land use and transport investment for the benefit of the city region as a whole, as well as to more specific issues like waste management, logistics coordination, more positive use of the Green Belt and establishment of a level playing field for parking policy (in line with government’s regional policy). With some notable exceptions, and while recognising the uncertainty over regional working outside London, cross border arrangements to address these (especially along strategic ‘Corridors’) appear to require rejuvenation.
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