Mayor of London publishes planning guidance to protect London’s commercial heartland

Protecting London’s vibrant commercial heartland and ensuring it can remain a key driver of the UK economy for decades to come is the focus of major new planning guidance published by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP today.

London’s ‘Central Activities Zone’ is the beating heart of the city. Running from Kensington Gardens and Paddington in the west, to Aldgate in the east, and from Kings Cross and Euston in the north to Elephant & Castle and the Battersea Power Station in the south it is the geographic, economic and administrative epicentre of the capital.

The area, which is approximately 13 square miles in size, employs more than 1.7 million people and boasts outstanding heritage, shopping and culture and attracts millions of visitors every year. It generates almost 10 per cent of the UK’s economic output and is also home to more than 230,000 people.

However, in recent years, some valuable office space in the area has been lost to new housing in a move that if continued could threaten the capital’s economic pre-eminence.

But the demand to create new homes in London does not need to be at the expense of the business, culture and other key functions of the zone, the new guidance states.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “The heart of the capital is the foundation of London’s reputation as best city in the world in which to do business. While we continue to do all we can to increase housing supply city-wide, it is also vital that we protect our office space so central London continues to be a key generator of economic prosperity for the entire country.”

Highlights of the new Central Activities Zone Supplementary Planning Guidance, which is aimed at planners, developers and local authorities include:

  • Work to address the recent tension in central London between residential and office space. The Government recently announced that from May 2019 it will allow office space in central London to be converted into homes without developers applying for change of use planning permission. This will replace an exemption that the Mayor negotiated in 2014 that has protected London’s core office space. The Mayor is working closely with London’s local authorities to bring forwardspecial planning regulations known as Article 4 directions so that they can continue determining planning applications for the change of use. This will ensure that London’s commercial heartlands will be protected from planning changes.
  • For the first time ever, detailed guidance that states that new residential development is not appropriate in the commercial core of the City of London and northern Isle of Dogs. The guidance also includes more stringent criteria to guide applications across all of central London which would lead to the loss of offices. It pinpoints geographical parts of central London where commercial use should be given priority over new residential developments. This includes substantial areas such as the West End, Kings Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo and part of the City Fringe in east London which makes up the emerging “Tech City” cluster.
  • As well as incentivising and protecting office space, the document sets out guidance to support specialist clusters of commercial uses, retail and cultural areas, and the creative industries.
  • Outlining the potential for additional housing capacity in central London without compromising the commercial importance of the area. This could be done by building new homes in specific parts of the city centre and renewing existing housing. The guidance also promotes a desire to spread student housing away from central London.

Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor for Planning confirmed the publication of the new guidance at the MIPIM international property forum in Cannes today. Both he and Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property are at MIPIM this week to directly lobby key investors and developers as they work to double house building, including the provision for more affordable and low cost homes for hard working Londoners, further the development of more office space and fund major regeneration projects around the capital.

Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor for Planning said: “The Central Activities Zone is one of the jewels in London’s crown and this detailed planning guidance will help to safeguard it for years to come by taking a sensible and sensitive approach to the differing needs of residential and commercial pressures.”

The Mayor has also published today new Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance which seeks to encourage all the players in the housing market to think innovatively about how to deliver the housing London needs. The guidance will help boroughs identify locations for future housing supply and explores ways to accelerate housing delivery. It provides support for long term private rent, providing guidance on the use of covenants and approach to securing affordable housing as a way to address the sector’s distinct economics. The SPG also provides guidance on viability appraisals, encouraging transparency of information and helping to ensure policy requirements are reflected in land values.

The Mayor has also confirmed today the publication of the Minor Alterations to the London Plan (MALPs). These alterations have been prepared to bring the London Plan, the strategic plan for the capital, in line with the national housing standards and car parking policy. Both sets of alterations have been approved by Government and considered by an independent inspector at an examination in public.

The new housing standards will ensure all homes built in the capital are less cramped and of better quality for Londoners.

The parking standards provide more space for cars in new developments and will help outer London boroughs manage small-scale and local parking problems.

They recognise that a one-size fits all approach to parking does not work for such a diverse city as London and that some people are more dependent on their cars as they are not as well served as others by public transport.

To view the Central Activities Zone Supplementary Planning Guidance and the Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance visit

To view the Minor Alterations to the London Plan visit