It’s an attempt to stimulate the post-Covid economy with new homes and jobs for the construction industry.
Even though chaos struck planning departments when lockdown was imposed, the number of new homes approved from January to May by local authorities is on a par with the first five months of last year, say experts Molior.
After a strong start to the year, 4,618 homes received planning permission in April and May, the most restricted period of the lockdown, as councils rushed to set up virtual meetings and boost the market. This momentum has continued into June.
Building just one home supports 26 tradespeople, from bricklayers to decorators, not forgetting the supply chain of conveyancers, estate agents, removal companies and surveyors, says the Federation of Master Builders.
“There continues to be a massive social need to build affordable housing in London, and a massive economic need to create jobs.
Both factors mean it was of the utmost importance to get construction sites back up and running in a safe way,” says Craig Hughes, global head of real estate at PwC.
“We must continue to accelerate approvals and the delivery of high-quality, affordable new homes,”
Among a flurry of approvals given by planning committees this week was a scheme with Waltham Forest council and developer London Square Partners to redevelop Lea Bridge station and create 300 new homes.
This project follows two other schemes by London Square Partners which gained approval last week — 55 homes in Kingston and 72 homes in Watford.
Two towers in Old Kent Road comprising 262 new homes were consented to by Southwark council at the start of the month.
The development by Avanton is part of the £10.7 billion regeneration of the run-down highway that stretches from Bermondsey to Lewisham.
The biggest scheme to be approved by committee during the lockdown was the overhaul of the Score sports centre in Leyton by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey. The redevelopment includes new leisure facilities with a nursery, health centre, public square, cycling storage and 750 new homes.
“Councils recognise that giving planning consent is a good way of supporting the local economy,” says Richard Patient, managing director of planning agency Thorncliffe/Your Shout. “I expect it [planning approvals] to continue at this pace,” he adds.
The Old Oak Common transport hub, where HS2 will meet Crossrail, was finally given the green light under lockdown.
Set to be the largest railway station ever built in the UK, with 14 platforms, it will act as a trigger for housebuilding across the £26 billion Old Oak Common and Park Royal regeneration zone.
At the peak of the crisis, 300 build-to-rent flats were approved off Western Avenue in Ealing, while apartments got the go-ahead in Southall High Street.
More centrally, Countryside’s 300-unit Peel Place in Kilburn also got the nod, as part of the 2,400-home South Kilburn Masterplan to be delivered in the second half of this decade.
For those who want to buy along the west London regeneration corridor, developer Mount Anvil is set to launch 1,000 new homes at The Verdean, a scheme over six acres in Acton.
The first homes start from £369,000. Call 020 3944 8648 for details.
Network Homes is launching Evolution apartments this month in Southall, west London, with prices from £64,375 for a 25 per cent share of a studio flat.
Nearby, there are also shared-ownership flats available at The Assembly in Hounslow, with one, two or three bedrooms, private balconies, a communal garden square and secure children’s play park.
These homes are priced from £139,500 for a 40 per cent share.
Across town 132 new homes go on sale this week within walking distance of Canary Wharf. Oxbow is a new development built within the Aberfeldy regeneration zone in Poplar, sitting close to the River Lea.
The two buildings — Gabriel Court and Johanna Court — will have studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments starting from £351,000. Call 020 8131 3567.
Shared-ownership flats were launched yesterday at Telegraph Works in Greenwich SE10. The Peabody scheme is next to 183-acre Greenwich Park.
Prices start from £111,000 for a 30 per cent share of a one-bedroom home.
In Battersea SW11, flats are on sale at 955-home Prince of Wales Drive.
Low-rise pavilions sit around landscaped gardens and a square with shops, a cinema, gym and a street food market. There’s an eighth-floor terrace, too. Prices from £750,000.
Not all decisions are made by local council planning committees. During lockdown two tall residential towers at Vauxhall Cross Island were controversially approved by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, despite opposition to their height.
The skyscrapers of 53 and 42 storeys will deliver 257 homes when completed.
Last month the Greater London Authority stepped in and granted 2,000 new homes at Grahame Park in Colindale, north-west London, to be built by Network Homes.
This follows a policy paper written in January recommending a new zonal system for the capital which copies New York and would mean developments move through the planning process much faster.
According to Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics “there is talk” of easing planning regulations as the industry awaits the delayed planning White Paper, which was due to be published in April.
“There are characters in the Cabinet who would favour this approach but of course, deregulation is a double-edged sword and we must make sure the quality of new homes does not suffer,” says Professor Travers.
A planning application has been submitted to take the Colindale Gardens regeneration scheme in Barnet from 2,900 new homes to 4,000.
City worker Rita, 42, moved into the shared-ownership phase of the development just as the Covid-19 restrictions kicked in.
Previously renting a small flat, she now has a big balcony which has been a “godsend” in lockdown. Prices from £105,450 for a 30 per cent share.