Various people have said they find it hard to distinguish between the policies of Said Khan and Zac Goldsmith and that therefor the Mayoral election is more about which individual has the best character and judgment. Well I was on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Friday and I was able to mention very briefly what is an important distinction that has been generally overlooked.
Zac Goldsmith would not only seek to get new homes built bit for them to be beautiful. This is actually crucial to getting the numbers we need built because this is the way to make it popular – whether in redeveloping estates or building on derelict (often state owned) land. We turn Nimbys into Bimbys – Beauty In My Back Yard.
In recent decades new has meant ugly. For example more tower blocks and slab blocks have been inflicted on the capital. But this is not inevitable. Create Streets has argued higher density can be achieved with attractive traditional normal housing and restoring the old street patterns.
Zac’s Manifesto said:
“As the organisation Create Streets has argued, the complex planning system in London has created ugly blocks designed by committee rather than the human-scale streets for which there is greater popular demand. New Victorian terraced houses and red-brick Edwardian apartment blocks are difficult to build under modern planning law – even though these are not only popular but extremely high density, providing up to 75 per cent more homes than the poorly-spaced concrete tower blocks which dominate so much of London.
“For example, the London Plan requirement that every single home has 5m2 of private outdoor space has led to tiny flats having tiny balconies – when instead a developer could have made that flat bigger and put a garden square in the centre of the development instead. Rules regarding ‘over-looking’ – how close a window is to a street or another building – are broken by existing terraced homes to no complaint from city dwellers but are seen as cast iron requirements for new build boxes. The collective impact of many of these small and well-intentioned rules is that London is seeing less of the homes Londoners actually want to live in.
“So, as Mayor, I will challenge the raft of planning rules which prevent us building what we want and what we need. I will run a competition for a set of ‘New Homes for London’, consulting widely with Londoners to determine which housing styles are most popular. I will then work with Government and local councils to remove unnecessary restrictions on these types of homes. In particular, I will ask London’s top architects to help create a modern Edwardian red-brick block – an extremely popular type of mid-rise home which could be re-engineered for the modern age.”
Most Londoners may not realise it but how they vote on May 5th will make a big difference to what London will look like in the decades to come.