10 ideas for the new mayor

The Architecture Foundation launches a ten-point provocation for London

The Architecture Foundation has compiled 10 proposals challenging the new mayor to think more ambitiously about London's development.

As part of the AF’s ongoing Manifesto for London project, the 10 proposals have been put forward by leading thinkers on London’s development and address a wide range of issues from workspace to consultation to planning permission to housing. 

Ellis Woodman, director of the Architecture Foundation commented, “Boris Johnson has signally failed to answer the question of what kind of London we are trying to create. The past eight years have seen London become a more socially divided city, much of its centre now uninhabited by all but the super-rich. Places of industry, culture and education are being swept aside by new high-rise developments conceived solely in the interests of overseas investors. Even as it densifies, London is becoming more suburban in its diminishing range of uses.  These 10 ideas reclaim London’s future from the destiny that unwavering faith in the wisdom of the market would appear to have assigned it. ” 

10 ideas for the new mayor


1. Bring planning out of the town hall and onto the high street

London is changing at high-speed and this is being poorly communicated to its frustrated and angry populace. The planning system is an arcane and closed book. Every London borough needs a physical meeting place where the London Plan is made tangible, all new developments in the borough are mandatorily showcased, and all land use and ownership is made visible.

Proposed by Claire Bennie, housing developer


2. Protect manufacturing space

A good city should welcome a diverse economic and civic life, shape its urban fabric to accommodate mix, make space for a self-driving and extrovert economy. A good Mayor will recognise that London faces not just a housing crisis, but a broader accommodation crisis. That Mayor will lead the way to a city of bolder overlaps, of a fully embraced and ever present vibrancy, and will shout out clearly that, as we grow, we must invent.

Proposed by Mark Brearley, CASS Cities


3. Build food-producing hubs across the city

London has 2.3 million living in poverty and significant stretches of ‘food desert’ with no access to healthy, affordable food. Last year 100,000 Londoners used a food bank. The Mayor should set-up a series of community food hubs to bring fresh food to the deserts and bring people together through food. 

Proposed by Carolyn Steele, author of Hungry City


4. Create a register of unused buildings for meanwhile use by the arts

Existing spaces for the arts are under threat and closing across the city. London risks becoming an art-free zone. Establish a public database of unused buildings as spaces for fugitive artistic meanwhile use.

Proposed by Bob and Roberta Smith, artist


5. Introduce “Consent and Implement” planning permission

Let anyone apply for planning to develop publicly owned land. If consent is granted, give the applicant the right to build the consented scheme, on the basis that half of what is built is given to the landowner on completion.

Proposed by Crispin Kelly, Baylight Property


6. Stop selling public land to volume house builders

Volume housebuilders churn out developments with the same imaginative consistency as the chain stores that dominate any given high street and rob London of interest. What is worse they do it without meeting the real demand for housing. Volume housebuilders have failed to prove their merits to the public and city. The mayor should implement an immediate freeze on any further public land being sold to volume housebuilders. Public plots should then be placed in community land trusts with architect-led construction teams appointed to develop them by a city architect who is not to be selected by the mayor.

Proposed by Kate MacTiernan, Shuffle Festival


7. Abolish viability assessments 

The root of London's housing crisis lies in a document entirely hidden from public view. The 'financial viability assessment' is the one part of every planning application immune from public scrutiny, yet it contains the slippery spreadsheets that allow developers to wriggle out of their affordable housing obligations. The viability industry has utterly bulldozed the planning system: once predicted on ensuring the best use of land, it has become a solely about safeguarding the profits of developers. Viability must be scrapped and replaced with statutory levels of affordable housing, not aspirational, easily flouted targets.

Proposed by Oliver Wainwright, the Guardian


8. Halt housing estate demolition programmes

How is it that in a time of acute housing crisis, close to 100 housing estates are facing demolition? While plans are drawn up to knock down genuinely affordable homes some 300 towers of luxury apartments aimed largely at foreign investors are entirely reconfiguring London. The government argues that it’s a question of supply and demand and that more homes are needed, but this market is fuelled by the demands of global capital rather than the needs of ordinary Londoners. The next Mayor must halt ‘estate regeneration’ programmes which are leading largely to the demolition of desperately needed low-cost housing.

Proposed by Anna Minton, author of Ground Control


9. Permit custom-build development in the green belt

London is getting a hernia. The city has traditionally expanded along trade routes and transport infrastructure; or at least it did until the green belt was introduced. London's green belt should become a space for opportunity, for a new type of self-help housing, for housing that touches the earth lightly. Like the plotlanders of the early 20th century a new model can emerge that empowers people to determine their own housing choice.

Proposed by Alex Ely, mae architects


10. Reinvigorate public sector planning

Public engagement with many state services is at a low ebb, and popular opinion of services like planning is overwhelmingly - and understandably - cynical and dismissive. Planning has gone from being the primary agent of change in the built environment to an increasingly impotent regulator of rampant capital. Incredible work is being done by public servants in the face of increasingly nasty odds, but this work is too-often unrecognised and unaccounted for yet our public services are entangled in a knot of market forces and austerity that too often leaves them dysfunctional and disconnected. The mayor must reboot the public sector planning in terms of careers, scale, accountability, visibility and character. 

Proposed by David Knight, DK-CM