London needs equivalent of 30 new Shards per year until 2020 to house population: consultants publish response to Boris’s London 2020 vision

Bold decisions including bringing jobs closer to homes through better planning, retrofitting all homes, rewarding off peak travel, and increasing house building by giving the Mayor of London Boris Johnson more control of the planning process are needed to achieve the Mayor’s 2020 vision according to leading professional service consultants, WSP.

The London 2020 Vision, published by the Greater London Assembly in summer 2013, aims to put London on the map as a world leading city by 2020, accommodating 1m new residents with 400,000 more homes, locally generated energy and improved transport networks to provide capacity for the projected 12 percent growth in travel (2021).

In a report published today global consultancy WSP has proposed a series of recommendations to ensure Boris’s vision can be realised.

Head of Development at WSP Ian Liddell said:

“Boris’s vision, admirable as it is, requires some bold moves to make it achievable. An extra 40,000 homes per year is the equivalent of 270 ha of residential development every year – almost twice the area of Hyde Park every year for the next eight years, or 30 new Shards per year in square footage. We’re nowhere near that, in fact we’re lagging behind by 12,000 homes per year. We can catch up, but there’s a lot to be done.

“Equally, our transport networks are ill equipped to deal with an extra 3m more trips per day in 2021. We support the investments proposed by the Vision, but for the longer term we also need to find ways of cutting our travel demand. For example, if every person cut their commute by just 500m we could save 10% in total trip kilometres, and if we reduced our peak travel by 10% we would curb peak hour public transport growth by effectively 10 years.

“Our research also shows that focussing on energy efficiency would be more beneficial than the proposed local heating networks, which will cost £7bn, saving on average £125 off energy bills.”

WSP’s four solutions to bring the Vision to fruition are:

1. Increase house building by giving the Mayor greater control over London’s planning.

If we don’t speed up the planning process we will have a gap of 120,000 homes in 2023. To ramp up progress the Mayor of London should be given more control of the planning process, building on the Olympic experience through Mayoral Development Corporations to identify areas of strategic importance and drive through the regeneration needed.

2. Create jobs closer to homes through better planning of the Opportunity Areas (OAs)

Around 60% of the 164,000 homes earmarked for development in Boris’s Opportunity Areas lie in outer London while 75% of the 388,000 jobs are in inner or central London. The Vision therefore simply encourages more commuting, worsening the very problem the transport Vision is trying to address. The balance needs to be shifted – jobs and homes need to be located closer together in future, reducing both journey frequency and commuting time.

3. Reward commuters for travelling fewer stops and more off peak

There will be three million extra trips per day by 2020. Because car travel hasn’t increased in London for 10 years, this will largely impact public transport not roads. WSP says solutions could include a ‘reverse pedometer’ scheme, where Oyster card holders are rewarded for reducing their monthly public transport usage, incentivising commuters to finish their travel before 7.45 am in the morning and offering cash rewards for off peak travel. Public transport growth is forecast to increase by 1 – 1.2% per year so if we reduce the morning peak by 10% we would curb peak hour public transport growth by 10 years.

4. Refocus energy policies away from local generation to energy efficiency

WSP says the proposed £7bn investment for the district heating network should be re-directed into a programme of retrofit for all London buildings by 2030. WSP estimates this could save £1bn a year, or £125 pa per person off energy bills, and 7m tonnes of CO2.

Interactive infographics can be viewed here A copy of the report is available upon request.