In December 2023 the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities appointed a panel of expert advisers to examine potential adjustments to the London Plan – aimed at enhancing housing development on brownfield sites within London.

The report of expert advisors – the London Plan Review – was published in February 2024 and paints a stark picture: London’s housing crisis is deepening.

While the report acknowledges the multifaceted nature of the problem, it rightly identifies an area for improvement – the planning process itself. The current system, burdened by complex policies and a lack of unified communication, is hindering the delivery of much-needed new homes, particularly on brownfield sites.

The report highlights a critical issue: London’s housing supply has consistently lagged behind demand, exacerbating the affordability crisis and hindering economic growth. With a shortfall of over 60,000 homes already (against the ten year cumulative target), urgent action is imperative to bridge this gap and ensure the city’s long-term sustainability.

One of the key recommendations of the report is the introduction of a planning presumption in favour of brownfield development. While this proposal is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it’s crucial to explore how technology can amplify its impact and expedite the process of delivering much-needed housing.

Imagine a scenario where all stakeholders involved in a housing development project – developers, architects, local authorities, and public bodies –  worked seamlessly together on a single, unified platform, where they can visualise proposed developments in unprecedented detail and assess their impact on the surrounding environment.This level of transparency and collaboration would not only enhance public engagement but also enable more informed decision-making, leading to better outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

Moreover, by standardising the use of advanced technology tools like digital twins, we can eliminate inefficiencies and inconsistencies that often plague the planning process. From site analysis and feasibility studies to stakeholder consultations and regulatory compliance, a standardised digital workflow ensures that everyone is on the same page, reducing delays and minimising the risk of costly mistakes.

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Crucially, adopting a collaborative technology approach can also help address the challenges faced by SMEs, who are essential contributors to London’s housing supply but often struggle to navigate the complex planning landscape. 

By levelling the playing field and providing SMEs with access to state-of-the-art planning tools, we can empower them to compete on equal footing with larger developers, driving innovation and diversity in the housing market.

In conclusion, the London Plan review underscores the urgent need for bold, forward-thinking solutions to address the city’s housing crisis. By embracing collaborative technology platforms, we can unlock new opportunities for innovation, efficiency, and inclusivity in urban planning and development. 

Together, let’s harness the power of technology to build a brighter, more sustainable future for London and beyond.

Claire Locke is commercial director at VU.CITY, which featured on our PropTech 50 ranking

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