The pivotal role that the Thames has played in driving London's growth looks set to continue into the 21st century, as mayor Boris Johnson has revealed plans to build 26,500 homes along the iconic river’s edge. The construction project will hopefully go some way towards alleviating the effects of the city's housing shortage, while creating new jobs and bringing economic regeneration to the area in the process.
London's housing supply outpaced by unprecedented population growth
According to the Guardian, London's population is currently the highest it's ever been. It reached its previous peak in 1939 when the population topped 8.6 million. Current calculations based on the city’s economic growth, improved health care and international appeal has led analysts to predict a population of 10 million by 2030.
This growth ensures that London will remain an economic and cultural powerhouse, but it also has its fair share of challenges; particularly in the property market which is in the midst of a housing shortage. Savills has estimated that the shortfall of homes will reach 160,000 in the next five years, and that London will need 14,400 more homes per year than what the Greater London Authority (GLA) has planned in order to meet rising demand.
The search for brownfield land
Compiling a database of brownfield sites is one approach that could go some way towards alleviating the effects of the housing shortage, with 60% of new homes already having been built on designated brownfield land. Brownfield land refers to land that has previously been developed and which can potentially be redeveloped. Even though in many cases such land originally served an industrial purpose, it can still be cleared and made suitable for human habitation.
According to Sustainable Build, there are about 66,000 hectares of brownfield land in England, with around a third of it being located in high growth areas of London. Mayor Boris Johnson has earmarked 38 brownfield sites in particular for development. What these 'opportunity areas' all have in common is a high capacity for new homes, as well as the potential for strong commercial development and accessibility from improved public transport links.
The Thames riverside is one such opportunity area, covering a distance of 12km from the Royal Docks to Rainham Marshes. The plans laid out by the London Riverside Opportunity Area Planning (OAPF) draft include the construction of additional river crossings and railway stations, and the expansion of existing public transport connections, such as the Gospel Oak London Overground line.
In addition to the economic boost the area will receive from the redevelopment and the increased supply of affordable housing, the construction project is also expected to create 16,000 new jobs across the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Havering, and a small part of Newham.
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