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London needs a more responsive approach to planning to maintain quality of life

'London needs a very different and more responsive approach to planning and resources if growth and quality of life are to be maintained' say LSE London

The sharp recent growth in London's population and economic output is projected to continue in the years ahead argues a new book, London, Bigger and Better?, published by LSE London. The book brings together arguments raised in a series of London Development Workshops organised by LSE London.

The long and continuing period of UK economic growth, the 'southern tilt' to the economy, international immigration and the demand that new housing and jobs should be located on 'brownfield' land have combined to create rapid expansion in London and its wider region. The capital's population has jumped from 6.7 million to 7.5 million within 20 years and is projected to hit eight million soon after 2012. In a series of articles, experts explore the issues raised by this expansion.

'Employment trends...will be determined not only by the structural and competitive strength of London based businesses, but also by particular constraints on expansion in certain locations, and by where employers choose to locate particular operations currently undertaken within London - whether in Stratford, Reading, Glasgow or Mumbai.' Projections could be wrong, particularly if London was not able to accommodate new jobs or residents.

Stephen Glaister of Imperial College argues that the costs of expanding the capital's transport system will be very great: 'Policies on housing densities and locations, land use planning and regeneration are all being developed without a coherent overall account of the transport requirements implied or of how they might be paid for.' Demand for travel is set to outstrip capacity by an increasingly wide margin after 2010.

LSE London's Ian Gordon| is more circumspect about the scale of growth likely. Commenting on projections showing a growth of 635,000 jobs in London between 2001 and 2016, he states: 'this scale of growth [shown in a number of official forecasts] is not inconceivable, but it represents a very optimistic reading of past trends....It...seemingly ignores the recurring tendency for London employers to respond to high cost factors in the city by finding ways of dispersing work with does not absolutely require the distinctive assets and face-to-face communication possibilities that are London's competitive advantage.'

Christine Whitehead| of LSE London points to the Mayor's London Plan objective 'to concentrate employment in the centre and housing in the Thames Gateway...Jobs are continuing to grow more in the centre and the west. These trends are likely to put further pressure on the affordability of housing and employment costs and could further unbalance housing prices, the mixed community agenda and sustainable growth.' The Mayor's density objectives 'involve significantly increased densities in suburban areas as well as the centre...which will change the nature of local place.'

Peter Hall of University College, London, tackles what he sees as Britain's 'land fetish'. He believes 'London cannot decently and realistically house the population projected for it.' The capital should not 'reverse the 200 year trend to deconcentration in this region.' Instead, planning policy should 'realise, in....great growth corridors, the qualities of the classic suburbs - sustainable public transport provision and effective insulation of households from pollution and noisy traffic or neighbours - within a programme of housing development matching that of the new town building era from 1946 to 1980.' The taboo about rural greenfield development should be overcome.

Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips argues: 'London's experience of integration will be the litmus test for the rest of the nation.' Currently: 'More than half of Bangladeshi and Black African Londoners live in overcrowded housing. People from ethnic minorities in London are three times more likely to be victims of mugging than white people...After 40 years of anti-discrimination legislation the evidence is still stacked against equality, participation and interaction. On the other hand, never before has integration been so high on the political agenda.'

Policing and the delivery of social order are considered in a chapter by Professor Janet Stockdale| and Tony Travers| of LSE, who point to the complexity of the task facing the Metropolitan police and also to the confusing accountability arrangements for policing in the capital. The sensitivity of law and order in the city has been heightened by the rise of global terrorism and political reactions to it. London is at the front-line of this issue. 'The British authorities were un-prepared for the changes that have occurred internationally. Muslims were barely understood by the rest of the population or by many organs of the British state (and probably vice versa).' In a complex global city 'the police need cultural knowledge, legitimacy and common sense. The challenge ahead must surely include the awkward task of strengthening the links between political management and London's policing.'.

Finally, Tony Travers considers government proposals to strengthen the powers of the Mayor of London, possibly by shifting some powers (particularly over planning) from the boroughs to City Hall. He says: 'If a more powerful Mayor is to be accepted, the city's residents and businesses will have to understand the need for a new balance to be struck between "borough" and "metropolitan" interests....Ken Livingstone and his successors will need to take the electorate with them as they accumulate power and change the city.'

The book contains different perspectives on the London of 2006 and beyond. Authors do not take precisely the same line, but all have considered the nature of the future that awaits Europe's biggest city. The publication concludes that: 'Developing a coherent approach to ensuring that bigger truly means better for London is just as important as ensuring that the growth itself occurs.'


For more information, or to request a copy of the book, email LSE London at lselondon@lse.ac.uk| 

Further information from: Tony Travers on 020 7955 7570, email a.travers@lse.ac.uk| 


London, Bigger and Better?, edited by Ben Kochan, is taken from a series of London Development Workshops funded by HEIF 2 and was published by LSE London in September 2006.

LSE London
LSE London is a centre of research excellence at LSE on the economic and social issues of the London region, as well as the problems and possibilities of other urban and metropolitan regions. The project consists of a series of conferences, workshops and seminars designed to bring together stakeholders in key debates on London's economic, political and social development and funded by HEIF 2. For more information, see LSE London|

HEIF 2 is a partnership between the Department of Trade and Industry/Office of Science and Technology (DTI/OST), HEFCE, and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). Funds are awarded to support universities and colleges in their third stream engagement with business and community partners, increasing their capability to respond to the needs of business, public services and the wider community, and to transfer knowledge.

18 October 2006