The Mayor’s Outer London Commission: Report




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• Cycling and walking are key Mayoral policy priorities, The Commission shares his enthusiasm, and recommends that opportunities to increase them as ways of getting around outer London are identified and taken up. These support other Commission recommendations dealing with things like ensuring a liveable public realm and easy access to local services. There is particular potential to encourage cycling and walking to and in town centres, which will have health and environmental as well as transport and health benefits and should be promoted as modes of choice. There is a particular case for leadership by boroughs in developing cycle hubs and promoting cycling. The Commission supports a combination of incentives and investment to encourage these sustainable modes, and to give a real choice not to use private cars.

• The car is likely to remain a key mode for many trips in outer London, however. The Commission recommends more effective road management and cross-borough work to address congestion. These should include ways of improving freight transport and servicing and reducing the need for “school runs”. It also supports speeding up the process for approval of highway projects. There is scope to reduce local traffic through better integration of land use and transport planning, especially in relation to local retail centres, and for some local enhancements to road capacity to address particular congestion problems. Alongside these steps, the Commission considers there is a role for demand management measures, potentially including road user charging in the longer term. Consideration should also be given to more effective ways of managing road works.

Car parking policy in outer London should be developed on an individual and local basis – a “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate to such a diverse area. A balance must be struck between promoting new development and preventing excessive parking provision which can discourage sustainable modes and increase congestion.

The Commission suggests a flexible approach. It recognises the point made by many developers that the lack of onsite parking for office developments in outer London puts them at a disadvantage compared with centres outside London. There is also a case for liberalisation in town centres in need of regeneration. The Commission therefore recommends a selective review of parking policies. It also supports park and ride schemes where these will reduce congestion and journey times and promotion of car sharing and car clubs.

• Freight: Increases in the density of commercial activity across London, including outer London, will require logistics premises to support the associated demand in freight and servicing vehicles. This may include the need for consolidation centres, but the case for them still needs to be understood further. In addition to managing congestion at key locations in outer London, increasing the role of rail and river in freight movements will relieve some of the pressures on the road network. However, it is essential to take realistic account of the primary role of road transport in sustaining London’s industrial and other business locations so that they can realise their potential contribution to the wider metropolitan economy.


Outer London as a place to live

47 The Commission is clear that economic issues cannot and should not be considered in a vacuum, and throughout its work it has taken account of the range of likely benefits of a more polycentric approach to development, while avoiding simplistic links between population growth and job creation. It makes clear the importance of “place-shaping” and ensuring new development fits in with local needs and heritage, so places are attractive to live in as well as work in. This will require encouragement of mixed use development and support for local capacity-building, high quality design and appropriate development densities.


48 While it is important to encourage affordable family housing, there is also a need to accommodate the needs of smaller households. All housing should be of high quality; the Commission also recommends that a closer look should be taken at the links between housing density, accessibility and parking provision – all things that form the sense of place and neighbourhood and can help make better places to live.


49 As its ‘pure’ economic recommendations above make clear, the Commission was conscious that improving housing provision to meet local needs and to support the wider London economy does not mean relegating outer London to a ‘dormitory’ role – an important concern for some of its respondents. Indeed, increased housing provision can, coincidentally increase local jobs. One element in this would be a more consistent approach to implementation of housing density policy. Emerging density policy appears to place greater emphasis on respecting local context by responding sensitively to different local circumstance. This should enable boroughs to enhance capacity in appropriate locations such as town centres, while supporting lower density development in neighbourhoods served less well by public transport. High quality design is an essential complement to this. It is clear that housing policy cannot focus solely on numbers, and the Commission stresses the importance of looking at how new homes should be planned for, built and supported with the social and other infrastructure which new and existing neighbourhoods need if they are to be sustainable.


50 Ensuring development of sustainable communities is likely to require new delivery models. There may be particular scope for community-based initiatives. It will also be vital to make sure mayoral strategies and their implementation are carefully coordinated to ensure public investment secures the maximum benefit.


Quality of life

51 Maintaining and improving the quality of life for those living and working in outer London is vital to realising its potential contributions to London as a whole. While the Commission’s recommendations support more development, it is also clear that it is important to ensure growth can be harnessed and influenced to help improve the quality of places in outer London, and the quality of life for those living there. In practice, this means taking a neighbourhood-based approach to promote and support local functions. As already mentioned, it strongly supported application of the concept of “place-making” and reinforcing the importance of town centres. It also supported the idea of “lifetime neighbourhoods” – those meeting the needs of residents at all stages of their lives.


52 The Commission would agree with its many respondents concerns over the need to secure appropriate local social infrastructure (such as schools and healthcare), to give greater attention to London’s “green suburbs” and to enhance the semi-public realm and to ensure its maintenance. As part of this, it supports a general presumption against development of back gardens where this is a problem, and continued and vigorous protection of the open spaces so vital to preservation of the quality of life in outer London. The Commission recommends that further work on these issues should be undertaken at strategic level, including updating of the Mayor’s “Toolkit for Tomorrow’s Suburbs”. There is a particular need to develop new ways of enabling greater community identity and cohesion to help foster a sense of ownership and empowerment in taking decisions about growth and development.


53 The Commission noted the historic justifications for targeting resources on inner London because of the concentration of problems of deprivation there. It considered that if a more fine-grained approach is taken, more localised concentrations of chronic deprivation could be identified in outer London and that there might be benefit for the capital in considering the reallocation of some (but by no means all) social and local renewal to realise the potential of those who are still disadvantaged, but not to the extent of those in the most acute need. It also disagreed with the view that the lack of national funding programmes and of strong market drivers means that strategic measures to address outer London’s social and physical infrastructure needs would be difficult. The Commission recognises that financial constraints limit the potential for major infrastructure investment, but this does not mean that it is not needed in some places, nor that innovative solutions cannot be found to address some of these constraints.


The governance of change

54 The Commission recognises that the London Development Agency (LDA) and Transport for London (TfL) are now working to make outer London a higher spatial priority in their investment strategies and plans. To support this, the LDA in particular should encourage local partnerships by, for example, facilitating land assembly, helping create capacity for town centre management and identifying distinct outer London skills needs.


55 The Commission supports streamlining of the development process in order to reduce the time spent on the planning permission process and speed up the production of local development frameworks. It supports boroughs retaining part of the national non-domestic rates paid by businesses in their area, and allowing them to borrow against future Council Tax income. There is also room for changes to national government practice – in speeding up the identification and disposal of surplus public land, for example.


The future

56 This report marks the end of the Commission’s formal task. In looking back over its work, it reflects on the huge and increasing diversity of outer London, and the many talented people it has in its businesses, voluntary organisations, communities and boroughs. It highlights some areas where further work should be done – aspects of quality of life, institutional arrangements (especially in terms of cross-boundary working), what climate change might mean for the area and, in particular, the resources available to help it realise its economic potential and the scope to make London’s ‘spatial strategy’ more effective in coordinating investment beyond its traditional land use, transport and environmental areas of concern. There are also some specific issues for further research, like the definition of ‘knowledge-based’ and ‘green’ industries.


57 In conclusion, the Commission suggests that consideration be given to maintaining a forum for outer London to advise on implementation of the recommendations in this report and, perhaps separately, to provide the basis for occasional, high level engagement with key stakeholders in the outer London economy to identify and assess emerging challenges and opportunities.


1: Introduction


1.1 The Outer London Commission (OLC) was formally established by the Mayor of London in February 2009 as a small, highly experienced and focused group, to advise how outer London can play its full part in the city’s economic success. In short, its task was to see how outer London could be given “a shot in the arm”, redressing what has been seen as an imbalance in the attention given to outer London and refocusing attention on a part of the capital that plays so important a role in the life of our city.


Overall purpose of the report

1.2 This is the Commission’s final report. It:

• Examines the extent to which outer London has potential to contribute to the economic success of London as a whole

• Identifies the factors which are holding it back from doing so, and

• Makes recommendations on policies and mechanisms to enable to enable it to play its full part in London’s future success.

The report addresses the fundamental reasons for establishing the Commission in the first place – to identify the capacity to grow the outer London economy in a sustainable way, removing barriers to growth for competitive, established sectors and to attract new ones; explore the potential contribution of a few large “growth hubs”; secure the wider rejuvenation of outer London’s town centres and other business locations; improve outer London’s quality of life, business and residential environments; examine the relationship between population, housing and economic
growth and the infrastructure necessary to support this.


Methodology

1.3 The Commission has taken pains to ensure its discussions, conclusions and recommendations are based on credible and robust evidence. Starting from a ‘First Thoughts’ paper based on initially available information, the Commission set out to establish a base line data set showing as far as possible economic performance and other trends over two business cycles. It has gratefully used past research and studies (including that prepared for the GLA by Robin Thompson) and has commissioned new work where needed. It has also engaged in the evolution of the joint evidence base developed by the GLA Group to support the draft replacement London Plan and the Mayor’s draft Economic


Development and Transport strategies.

1.4 The Commission was clear from the outset that the experiences, views and ideas of those who have engaged with outer London and its issues over the years would be an essential resource on which it would need to draw. With this in mind the second step it took was an extensive series of consultation meetings with outer London boroughs, business groups, civic amenity societies and others to address the aspirations of outer London and the priorities for policy intervention. The starting point for this was responses to a set of written questions published on the Commission’s website (see Annex 2). In addition to the provision of written questions, there were more than thirty meetings of one to one/ small group discussions with stakeholders and ‘meetings in public’ in the quadrants of outer London. Figure 1.1 shows the locations of the public meetings:


Figure 1.1: Locations of OLC public meetings.


1.5 The next stage was to draw on the evidence and views the Commission had gathered to consider the spatial opportunities for outer London growth, taking particular account of the likely levels of investment in transport and accessibility.


1.6 Finally, the Commission reached its conclusions and made recommendations. As requested in its terms of reference, it prepared an interim report in June 2009 to help inform the draft replacement London Plan and other mayoral strategies issued for consultation in October. This interim report and evidence submitted to the Commission can be found at: http://www.london.gov.uk/olc/docs/interim-conclusions.pdf.


1.7 This is our final report, which draws our conclusions and recommendations together, and shows how these have been developed, and the evidence on which they are based. This process has broadly followed the “survey – analysis – plan” approach familiar to town planners in drawing up strategic policy.


1.8 The period over which this work was carried out is shown in Figure 1.2. This also shows the relationship between the Commission’s work, and the processes for revising the London Plan and the Mayor’s Economic Development and Transport strategies:


Figure 1.2: The work of the Commission: a timeline

Key:

AFB: Assembly and Functional Body

EDS: Economic Development Strategy

MTS: Mayor’s Transport Strategy

OLC: Outer London Commission


The Commission

1.9 The Commission was chaired by William McKee CBE, who has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. Its membership comprised representatives from diverse backgrounds including business, boroughs, architecture and design, developers and the voluntary sector:

Chair: William McKee CBE

Sir Terry Farrell, Adviser on architecture and civic design
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