The Mayor’s Outer London Commission: Report




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21 It will be important to ensure that outer London makes the most of the development and regeneration opportunities that may arise from national and regional transport and other infrastructural investment (with projects like Crossrail or High Speed 2, for example). Similarly, the importance of airports will remain a major economic driver for outer London. As already indicated, joint local and strategic working is vital to resolve local environmental and other concerns with wider strategic economic objectives.


22 Within London, it must be recognised that there is no hard and fast dividing line between its inner and outer parts. Irrespective of administrative boundaries it is essential that for policy purposes boundaries are regarded as permeable. The Commission supports the Mayor’s positive response in the DRLP to its recommendation that, on balance, Newham is more properly considered to be part of inner London.


Sub-regional structures

23 The Commission supports the view that a ‘one size fits all’ structure to coordinate sub-regional activity would not be fit for all economic development purposes. However, it did stress the importance of sustaining an effective sub-regional facility to support and inform the important step down from pan-London policy principles to the geographically specific detail required at local level. It noted the variety in current arrangements and the need to ensure that they remained fit for purpose as well as providing the strong leadership necessary to respond positively to changing circumstances.


Town Centres

24 The Commission’s work showed that 60 per cent of employment in outer London took place in its main town centres. Coupled with the other roles of these centres, this supports the view that they should be developed as the single most important set of business locations outside central London; and that the focus here should be on promoting access to a competitive selection of goods and services, foregrounding the use of more environmentally-friendly modes of transport. The Commission stressed the need for tempering ambitions for local centres with economic realism and recognition of the different roles each centres plays in the broad town centre network. Its recommendations to support this included:

• the need for real partnership working, including possible use of land acquisition powers to assemble sites:

• measures to enhance their quality and offers:

• guidance on a creative approach to mixed use development including increased town centre related residential provision;

• the importance of a sensitive approach to parking policy:

• maintenance of London’s distinct approach to the ‘sequential test’:

• closer integration of the investment priorities and initiatives of the GLA Group and other agencies such as the Homes and Communities Agency, as well as the boroughs and other relevant stakeholders; and,

• the potential to develop emerging results from GLA research on use of the planning system to secure small shop provision so that large new retail developments can contribute to relevant aspects of local town centre renewal.


Opportunity Areas and Areas of Intensification

25 The Commission supports these as mechanisms to bring forward capacity for development in an integrated, sustainable way. The GLA should continue to work with boroughs and other stakeholders to investigate whether the concepts can be extended elsewhere. However, the Commission was concerned at the slow rate of progress in bringing forward some Opportunity/Intensification Area Planning Frameworks.


Industrial Land

26 Careful management of strategic and local industrial capacity remains essential, especially to accommodate the relatively low-value but vital functions which it supports. The Commission has made specific recommendations over policy to secure an adequate quantity of provision as well as the need to place greater emphasis on quality, including improved local road access.


The potential for growth in different economic sectors

27 The Commission identifies four main growth sectors for the outer London economy: office-based work (including the public sector); knowledge-based industries; leisure, tourism and culture; and retail. Each of these will require a particular set of approaches, which we outline below:


Office based sectors

28 The Commission recommends a realistic and proactive approach to office development where increased economic potential can be clearly identified - the focus needs to be on the most competitive locations for future growth complemented by recognition that structural change in parts of the outer London office market looks set to continue.


29 The Commission’s report provides detailed suggestions on how the release of surplus office provision might be managed, taking into account the continuing need for some lower cost accommodation, the significance of phasing in this process, the importance of an attractive business environment as part of a broader mix of uses, a sensitive approach to car parking and the role of re-positioning and re-branding the most competitive elements of outer London’s office offer. This might be supported by use of the mixed-use ‘swaps’ concept in competitive locations.


‘Knowledge based’, ‘Creative’ and ‘Green sectors’.

30 While many consultees lauded the potential of these sectors it was noted that there did not appear to be a universally agreed definition of the terms (and indeed, some overlap between them). The GLA could usefully address this, linking it as far as possible to the planning process.


31 Looking at these sectors raises the question of whether outer London lacks information and communications technology infrastructure and whether the public sector or effective planning can help address this. Taking this further, there may be scope to encourage home (or near-home) working, with new forms of infrastructure or locally based business support services (local ICT “hubs” giving SMEs and individual workers access to the kind of sophisticated ICT that they could not economically afford to buy themselves, for example). We have suggested that public libraries or ‘touch down’ centres with provision for meetings, possibly provided by large, centrally based firms, might have a role in this. In addition Boroughs could take a more proactive approach to extending fibre optic cable or WIFI networks to enhance capacity to serve such centres – the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry would be happy to work in partnership to progress this.


32 The GLA group could usefully re-consider if there is a case for public sector intervention to support the provision of innovation parks so that similar, related small or medium-sized businesses can cluster together, and this might require active public intervention.


Public sector

33 While recognising central government’s views on dispersal of its activities, outer London is clearly a cost-effective place for government and other public sector functions, such as health, judicial and education functions of greater than sub- regional importance – and can be promoted as such. This might include building links to existing central London institutions and to local labour markets. The potential here is to use higher education institutions and hospitals as a focus of regeneration. Putting HE and FE institutions (or satellites of institutions based elsewhere) in outer London has the further benefit of developing the local labour market by helping people to improve their skills and employability.


Leisure and culture

34 There is considerable potential for growth in the spectrum of leisure activities including arts and culture, tourism and local leisure activities. These both make outer London an attractive, ‘liveable’ place for Londoners and offer potential for development of a visitor economy following successful examples such as Kew Gardens. The Commission welcomes strategic support and encouragement to identify more hotel capacity in outer London, especially in and around town centres.


35 The Commission has noted the imbalance between the number of cultural facilities in outer London and the amount of public funding available (most of which in the capital goes to central London). It recommends that this imbalance should be reviewed. This should be complemented by more positive marketing of outer London’s distinct attractions, particularly its leisure and cultural clusters. Local regeneration can be prompted by a more proactive approach to the ‘cultural quarter’ concept.


36 The possibility of large scale commercial leisure, perhaps of international significance could also be explored. At the other end of the scale, we believe there is scope for the rejuvenation of many of outer London’s medium-sized theatres, and extending their use for purposes such as art house cinemas.


37 Some parts of outer London have seen a rapid growth in the night time economy. It is important to remember, though, that areas with a night time economy require effective management and promotion to ensure that they remain attractive and safe, and that potential negative impacts on local residents and businesses are managed effectively.


Retail

38 Consumer spending will be a vital economic driver in outer London, underscoring the importance of retail here. New retail should be focused on town centres and provided in ways that seek to enhance their distinct characteristics – there is no reason why even a centre with a large number of national stores should be a “clone town”, and places with a distinct feel and character are likely to be those that will thrive. At neighbourhood and more local centre level there is scope to integrate new retail provision into larger, predominantly residential developments to support place shaping as well as providing essential services.


39 The Commission believes that efficient management of town centres is vital- particularly when combined with targeted investment and regeneration of particular centres. The London Development Agency has a particular role to play both in helping support the extension of models like Business Improvement Districts and more directly through supporting site assembly. Transport issues need to be given particular emphasis, especially encouraging access to and within centres by walking and cycling.


40 There is a need to understand and build upon the distinctive character and role of different types of centre, ranging from the Metropolitan centres, with their particular transport needs, through to smaller District and Neighbourhood centres. Each has an important part to play, and maintaining the kind of network that has been one of outer London’s real strengths will require careful and realistic planning. The tools that could be used to achieve this include policies to encourage a diverse and vibrant retail mix across centres, such as supporting the provision of affordable shop units, and promoting street markets to enhance vitality of town centres. Greater encouragement of walking and cycling as more environmentally sound and healthier means of getting into and going around town centres is also essential

The Outer London labour market


Skills

41 In terms of school-age education, outer London out performs inner London - its residents have higher rates of employment and lower rates of worklessness than inner London residents. It has more economically active people than that inner London – partly because it has a large, albeit slowly growing, employment base of its own, and partly because it is home to many Londoners who work elsewhere, especially in inner London.


42 To build on this success, it is vital that the distinctive skills needs of outer London are addressed. Public sector investment in skills is targeted on need not geography, and this tends to result in broad-brush approaches tackling broad-based areas of need. Outer London should not be overlooked. The Commission recommends that the LDA should adopt an approach to commissioning training and skills provision which will provide further opportunities for locally driven responses while delivering strategic outcomes.


Transport and outer London

43 Transport is a huge issue for outer London. Before summarising the Commissions considerations for different issues, it agreed some general principles to inform its detailed recommendations:


44 Most importantly, the Commission has taken seriously the need to ensure that what it says about transport is realistic – public sector resources are tight and likely to be tighter. Investment in transport infrastructure will require a strong business case. For outer London this will mean considering the extent of the benefit it will bring whether in transport terms (such as travel time savings) or in the development it can support. These judgements will have to be informed by the distribution and density of population, jobs and development. Having entered these caveats, the Commission considers it is essential that investment in transport infrastructure specific to outer London, its unique character and distinctive needs is not neglected. Outer London does benefit from pan-London and radial improvements, however, and these should not be seen as polar opposites locked in a zero-sum game.


45 These considerations were weighed by the Commission in considering the case made by a number of stakeholders for a high-speed, contiguous orbital transport system. It concluded that a “star and cluster” model (see Figure 1) offers a more effective and practical model to meet the needs of the constellation of centres and employment locations characterising outer London. Orbital movement around London can also be facilitated by developing and improving strategic interchanges and ensuring the most is made of existing links.


Figure 1: “Star and cluster” approach using existing links and improved strategic interchanges shown in orange


46 Moving from these general principles, the Commission has considered the role of different modes of transport:

• Rail is proportionately more important in outer London than for other parts of the capital, especially in south London where there is less tube coverage. Particularly given the shortage of resources, the Commission recommends that there should be an emphasis on making the current system operate more effectively, including improving connectivity and interchange with other transport services like buses and cycling. The welcome move towards viewing rail services as an integrated network in ticketing, timetabling, service levels, information provision and promotion should be extended to those parts of the system which are still not covered. The Commission recommends that further improvements should be made to the quality of stations, including improvements to make travellers feel more secure, improved information for travellers and more effective coordination with other modes. There is also a case for medium-scale investment – such as providing new strategic interchanges or improving existing ones – which can give significant benefits for relatively modest investment.

• Buses will continue to be a vital component of public transport in outer London and need to be better integrated with other modes such that passengers can make whole journeys by public transport. Buses and coaches can be used to improve orbital connectivity in outer London, and the Commission suggests consideration of things like express services and strategic coach hubs that can facilitate this. Better service information and marketing are also recommended.

• Ticketing: stakeholders also raised the question of fare affordability, which is widely seen as a particular issue for outer London. The Commission would like to see a review of ticketing measures – such as development of the Oyster concept to provide an outer London travelcard – to address this.
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