With well-managed plans, London’s city centre could support more homes.
Centre for London’s new report Remixing Central London examines what is needed to ensure a successful and harmonious mix of housing and economic activity are supported central London – against the backdrop of shifting demands for retail and office space, flexible approaches are one idea that might allow more people to live in the city centre.
Converting sites like car parks, empty shops and offices to homes could support central London’s recovery from the pandemic. This is according to a new Centre for London report which cautions against “unfettered” changes of use and puts forward recommendations to ensure that increases in housing supply are carefully planned and controlled to protect the city centre’s economic and cultural functions.
The report puts forward recommendations for national, regional, and local policymakers to realise benefits of increasing housing supply while preventing any negative outcomes. Residents who spend time in their local area not only spend money in the local economy – they are also likely to play a “stewardship” role in their neighbourhood and add vibrancy to an area. Mixed use neighbourhoods where residential sits alongside retail, cultural and commercial spaces offer a unique place to live, work and visit.
However, to ensure that property use remains flexible so that London can continue to respond to changing national and global needs, the report recommends that:
- Planning authorities should require property owners to manage buildings in a way that enables them to be redeveloped later – including a presumption in favour of rents rather than private ownership for residential uses.
To reduce the likelihood of tensions between residents in any new homes and businesses, the report recommends that:
- National government should require estate agents to inform potential buyers and renters of residential property about the characteristics of nearby businesses. This should include information on opening hours, delivery hours and the potential for noise – so that residents can make an informed choice when moving.
And to ensure that central London can be home to a varied population and strong communities, the report recommends that:
- Planning authorities should require all major residential developments to include a mix of different-sized homes to make central London an attractive and attainable place to live for a wide range of residents.