London must move to a situation where the development of transport infrastructure leads housing investment rather than catching up when homes are already there.
So said deputy mayor for housing James Murray yesterday at the NLA, where he was giving the keynote address in a conference about southwest London and how Crossrail 2 will impact it, with a prospective 200,000 new homes across the capital on the cards.
Murray said after a busy period since his appointment talking to all the stakeholders involved in attending to London’s housing crisis, he had been ‘really shocked’ at the amount of consensus there is on what we need to do, the scale of the challenge and the economic importance of housing. But there were three big priorities in terms of building a coalition to lead the way. The first is investment, with public money needing to join private; land, which needs a better approach and ‘deliverable programme’ needed on public land, and planning, which needs strong capacity in town halls and an update of planning policies.
South west London, though, has not had the same degree of transport investment as other areas and there will be a clear tension going forward between the prioritisation of housing and commercial space. ‘But I think the overall conclusion of what Crossrail 2 brings is that we need to see transport as not just reacting to growth, but driving growth’, said Murray. ‘We want to see transport and housing working more closely together in future.’
GLA strategic planning manager Colin Wilson agreed that the potential of the so-called ‘western wedge’ has been ‘largely untapped, and that’s a good thing for London.’ He pointed to Kingston, with its 10 Crossrail stations, but that this and the wider project was ‘all about being in the city, actually being part of London and benefiting and sharing from its growth.’ The GLA is trying to encourage boroughs to look at planning the city in its entirety too, across borough boundaries, particularly with regard to managing industrial and commercial land.
Crossrail 2 is in its early stages, said the project’s strategic manager, growth and development, Joanna Averley, but will help relieve ‘particularly pressing’ pressure on south west London. ‘The do-nothing option isn’t really an option for the transport system’, she said. But importantly the line will also open up the opportunity for transport-related development around key nodes, offering up part of the solution to an economic productivity challenge and aiding travel through and across the city as well as to the centre. It will also help address the housing challenge, said Averley, catalysing a projected 200,000 homes and benefiting places from The Solent to the Wash. We all know the impact that infrastructure like the JLE and, in Paris, the RER, have had, added Averley, but this was probably the first time the link has been made so directly. ‘Crossrail 2 is about quite substantial change’, she said. ‘Positive London boroughs are showing real leadership about planned growth. Hopefully Crossrail 2 will be part of that story.’
The conference also heard from London boroughs affected by the proposed line, with Sutton’s executive head of economic development, planning and sustainability Greg Macdonald aiming to match the area’s ambition with, crucially, a plan to make it happen. ‘It’s not just about the line; it’s about the broader area’, he said. ‘That’s the mantra we need to put across’.
Kingston, similarly is looking to optimise the benefits of Crossrail 2 for its residents, with a population set to increase by 10% from 168,000 to 186,000 by the mid 2030s, said the borough’s Eric Owens. And head of futureMerton Paul McGarry said the new line will be a ‘game changer’ with the potential to unlock more than 5000 homes and 8000 jobs by 2030, and a particular focus on Wimbledon. ‘It’s about taking a very linear town centre and making it grow across the tracks’, he said. Director of Merton Regeneration Paul Quinn added that schemes such a its High Path project demonstrate that densification can mean a fair residents offer, good design, larger homes and private outdoor spaces.
Finally, Weston Williamson partner Christian Bocci said the onset of the Crossrail 2 project was a ‘fantastic move forward’ with the potential to offer a different approach. ‘What I’m advocating is to have a placemaking agenda looking at the stations and considering what it can become as a place and an opportunity, and then marrying the density to it’, he said. ‘I’d advocate that we don’t have a suburban relationship to Crossrail 2. It’s a different mindset we need to consider.’
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ