Photograph: Lisa Setrini-Espinosa.
Risk to London's Growth
A new report by Atkins has found that London is significantly underestimating the level of development required to keep up with the city’s growth over the coming decades.
• Atkins report cites need for major improvement across the capital to halt decline
• Official London Infrastructure Plans are falling significantly short of projected growth rates
• Atkins calculates a shortfall of 1.5 million homes in South East by 2050
• London faces an unbalanced economy, a more unequal society, degradation of the natural environment, if plans are not adjusted
• Atkins outlines steps to future proof London and maintain its international status
Future Proofing London, produced in partnership with Oxford Economics and Centre for London, forecasts that the population will reach 12 million by 2050, not the 11.3 million projected in the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) London Infrastructure Plan – which is an underestimation larger than the current population of Manchester. The GLA expects there to be 6.3 million workers in the capital at this time, but this figure will actually be reached 24 years earlier, in 2026, according to the report. If new homes are delivered at the current rate – 26,000 annually over the past five years – the south east will be left with a shortfall of 1.5 million by 2050.
Mike McNicholas, Atkins’ director for London, said: “London’s position as one of the world’s leading cities is in real danger of slipping. The GLA is working hard to move us in the right direction but few would disagree there is still a lot more that needs to be done if we want to tackle the challenges facing London. It’s vital that we keep on top of evolving trends and update our plans to deal with them otherwise the infrastructure will not be developed at the right rate, or crucially in the right way, over the next few decades and leave London residents, workers and visitors facing avoidable issues.
“The housing supply and the projected population growth are a long way apart and this will only get worse if we carry on down the same path. There will be serious knock on effects as the pressure of the growing population pushes onto under prepared infrastructure.”
Atkins projects the potential issues that London faces as a result of the housing and infrastructure will include:
• Displacement of the population to outer areas of London
• Growing inequality and divisions in the city
• Transport network pressure, especially for commuters
• Lack of affordable residential and commercial property
• Unbalanced economic growth
• Professionals being dissuaded from moving to London
• Degradation of the environment
Mike McNicholas added: “The approach to housing, schools, transport networks and industry needs to change to keep London’s social and economic development moving in the right direction, but there are available solutions. The Mayor, the London Boroughs and developers have a responsibility to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the people who live and work in the city, now and in the future.
“It is not simply of matter of commissioning new building projects, but considering the social and environmental impacts of each step the city takes to ensure the right decisions are being made at the right time. Building in greater adaptability into our homes, offices and infrastructure will ensure the city is future proofed against the challenges it faces.”
Richard Holt, Head of Global Cities Research, Oxford Economics, said “London is unique within Europe, and almost unique in the world – a large city that is also growing fast, and that is hyper-competitive in the sectors that really matter going forward, such as digital media, life sciences, legal services, consultancy, advertising and of course finance.
“London receives more international tourists than any other city in the world, thanks to its cultural and other assets. In a single year, 22 million people visit the theatre in London, half as many again as visit theatres in New York. A third of London’s space comprises parks and gardens. In Paris it’s 10%. Half of London’s workforce are educated to degree level. In New York it’s just one third.’
“But none of that can continue without inflows of talented people, without increased investment in housing, schools and transport, and without a commitment to a safe, tolerant, healthy and diverse city. If those things don’t happen, London will be in trouble.”
Atkins’s proposed solutions include:
• Prioritising infrastructure investment – avoid focus on cost benefit analysis, which overlooks environmental and social benefits, when appraising plans and make use of big data to make better informed infrastructure and planning decisions. Local authorities, businesses and developers need to work more closely together to ensure they are taking these factors into account. See Gillett Square, Hackney.
• Revitalising outer London – create orbital rail links and cycle super highways to connect outer London centres. Densify the suburbs by building different types of housing amongst green spaces to provide a mixed community. See the regeneration of Croydon
• Curated Clusters – select urban places of distinctive character to be hubs for residential, commercial and industrial developments to act as catalysts for growth in new technology and knowledge driven industries. Creating a sense of place through providing adaptable business space, community areas and a shared responsibility from local authorities and residents to maintain the environment. See East London’s Tech City
• Green Infrastructure - reassess the Green Belt provision, making hard choices on developing affordable and sustainable housing in previously protected areas. Create multi-functional green spaces across the city as part of any infrastructure developments. See the Thames Tideway Tunnel.