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Some thoughts on the Mayor's vision London Growth by Design

In the LSE event London Growth by Design on the 10th of July, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan presented his vision for London and Londoners - Many Londoners have great expectations to this ambitious Mayor, in particular on the fronts of inclusiveness and housing. Affordable housing has become a nightmare for many residents, including key workers, single parents and new graduates who are pressured away by the high prices. They commute daily for long distances between home and job raising questions to the values of our society and who has the right to the city. London’s unique economic and cultural potentials and its role as incubator of financial activities and innovative businesses has stimulated growth in this global city and empowered its construction sector, but on the other hand contributed to a more harsh estate market and compromised the quality of public spaces. This comes on top of privatisation of services and downsizing of budgets allocated to social care and public health, which has increased societal gaps.

No wonder Sadiq Khan’s focus was on promoting London as a city enabling all Londoners to reach their potentials. His talk highlighted Good Growth as a driving principle for communities - a growth that enables a Sustainable, Inclusive City with great quality of life for all Londoners and for their cultural diversities across the city. He emphasised his aim at a healthier and greener city - a city that is safer and more assuring to the inhabitants particularly after the sad fire in one of the social housing blocks in West London, which raised the alarm regarding services to the less advantaged and how much our systems are smart in the heart. The state of deprivation in some London neighbourhoods and the need to support proximity between home, work and services prompted Mr. Khan to place emphasis on the importance for supporting mixed use development in connected places as great driver for Good Growth. He also pointed to the quality of public spaces as important and that high density and tall buildings should only occur where judged to be suitable with ambitious design standards. The need to reverse current tendencies in London was behind the Mayor’s call on everybody to participate in shaping the city and implementing the vision.

Calls for inclusiveness, sustainability and quality of public spaces has parallels in other cities as the need to capitalise on human values and qualitative development appears very necessary for the cities, the wellbeing of the inhabitants and the prosperity of businesses. What is very important for London is to explore in the proper London context how to implement this vision in terms of strategies, priorities, action plans, budgets, institutional forms and legal adjustments. It is very important for London to succeed in the delivery of affordable housing and in this regard to explore innovative partnerships, diversity of housing types and of ownership patterns that at the same time would contribute to revitalisation across London.

It is also important to explore how improving collaboration across London’s boroughs and priority-setting can support development and renewal in a helpful way. Here the delivery of new housing, urban densities and infrastructure should go hand in hand in order to ensure that the areas will be desired, attractive and accessible to diverse groups of population. It is worth exploring potentials in the different London areas, including East London and along the Thames and how to revive existing social housing estates with a new spirit while learning from the initial thoughts and efforts behind these estates and the qualities of the traditional London neighbourhoods. Regarding liveability, one of the important issues to explore is the great number of empty homes that are essentially foreign investments in London not contributing to development and liveability.

While acquiring some support from Central Government for the revival of some areas is an important condition to get things moving on as Sadiq Khan highlighted, it is OK to expect more social responsibility from the developers and the large economic actors to participate in delivering Sadiq Khan’s Vision for this great city and that the local authorities should raise more requirements to these developers.

High quality, safe affordable housing for the city key workers, liveable inclusive neighbourhoods and new collaborative methods are essential values and qualities to work for in this extraordinary diverse city. They are essential qualities for London to maintain its status as a global inclusive city based on human values and social responsibility.

By Roudaina Al Khani and Nouha Hansen

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