Call In Blitz Offers Black Hole for London Delivery

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The Mayor of London and the Government are looking to London densification to avoid moving, extending and reshaping London’s Green Belt as part of a wider regional strategy. The draft London Plan rejects ‘growth at any cost’ and sets out to deliver a step change in quality, quantity, affordability and delivery. At the same time, London’s local political landscape has been through a painful evolution – in terms of stability, predictability and players.  Reimagining density beyond single plots and tall buildings is work in progress, particularly where so few Local Plans make tested, masterplanned, allocations. Debates rage around density, daylight/sunlight and the meaning of ‘tall’.

Event Horizon

London development is facing a tough time living up to all that.  Intervention by the Mayor of London to move local debates along has been slower than anticipated. Having picked up pace this year, delivery is now being sucked into the black hole of Call In by the Secretary of State. 

Big Bang

Until 2019, the SoS had only Called In three London schemes in nine years.  An unprecedented surge leaves that at five in five months (Newcombe House, Citroen Garage, Albany Riverside, Vauxhall Gyratory * and Camberwell Industrial Estate* schemes).  Two of those were snatched from the Mayor of London’s own ‘called in’ jurisdiction.

That is all the more remarkable given that on average there were – nationally – only 10 Call Ins a year 2013-2018 (Rosewell Review) and 15 in 2017/18.

Escape Velocity

Call In statistics suggest that this will profoundly affect delivery:

  • 60% of Called In schemes tend to be approved (Rosewell Review) and 87% of SoS decisions since 2012 have followed the Inspector recommendation (according to Ministerial statements). 
    That is higher than the 47% approval rate for Recovered appeals, but bear in mind that the local authority was in each case going to locally approve every Call In scheme.
  • Call-Ins are taking between 8 to 35 months to determine. The average is 11.5 months (despite an average time from Inquiry start to Inspector recommendation of 3 months).
  • 30% of Called In schemes are withdrawn, but it is the 60% of that remainder where the ultimate grant of permission is therefore being significantly delayed.

Whether the market is rising or falling, that is a long time to wait. Unsurprising, then, that the Rosewell Review recommendation #17 seeks to “minimise the number of cases that need to be decided by the Secretary of State” by encouraging MHCLG to “keep their approach to the recovery of appeals and call-in applications under review“.  A step back would be progress.


* reportedly at the time of writing