THE BLOG

We Are Londoners Too! Infrastructure Development In The Suburbs

02/12/2016 13:20 GMT | Updated 02/12/2016 13:20 GMT

It is widely understood that London needs to increase its housing supply in order to meet demand for new homes. However, what is also important is ensuring that there is enough infrastructure to support these new homes. But in outer London, all too often this is not the case.

Five million people currently live in London's suburbs, and over the next ten years this is set to increase by another half a million. We are set to take a huge share of London's new homes over the next ten years - around 180,000 out of the 420,000 total required by the London Plan. Yet we are not getting anywhere near the level of new infrastructure needed to support this.

To be managed successfully, new homes require new and better roads, public transport, schools, health services and other new infrastructure. But all too often we just see new housing thrown at an area, focusing on building ever-increasing numbers of units without any thought to the infrastructure that needs to be provided alongside them.

Simply building new homes without the necessary infrastructure could lead to many areas becoming dormitory towns - places that are just used as a base to travel into central London, with very little economic or social activity of their own. In other words, new housing simply becomes warehousing.

One example is a lack of suitable parking provision. In outer London there is typically a greater reliance on cars compared to central London. Tube, train and bus routes are much fewer and far between, and are more focussed on getting into central London rather than between town centres. Yet new housing developments come with severe restrictions on the number of parking spaces - on average just 0.7 spaces provided per dwelling.

Another example is GP provision. Based on NHS guidelines, an increase of half a million people would require facilities for 250 new GPs over the next ten years, yet we are not seeing anything like this level of provision being supported by new developments.

Over £900 million is being spent on cycling infrastructure over the next ten years, yet the cycle superhighways are all routed through the centre of London, rather than around the outside. Meanwhile our suburban roads are getting increasingly congested and are badly in need of investment.

It was encouraging, therefore, to see in the recent Autumn Statement this issue being recognised at the highest levels of government. The Chancellor made clear his concern about the impact of housing on local infrastructure, and how this needs to be dealt with to ensure that our economy is successful, setting up a £2.3 billion infrastructure fund to support new housing delivery.

What we now need is for this approach to be applied in London's suburbs, so that we can not only deliver the homes that London needs, but the infrastructure to support it too. The government has started the ball rolling, and now we need the Mayor to pick it up.