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The London Plan is the overall strategic plan for London, setting out an integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of London over the next 20-25 years. In December 2017, a draft new London Plan was published for consultation by the Mayor of London. Aahsan Rahman, Department Head of Town Planning at NHSPS, writes on how his team led a coordinated response from a range of NHS bodies to the emerging plan, ensuring health provision was prioritised and that the NHS estate was treated fairly.

As the only dedicated town planning team in the NHS, the NHS Property Services (NHSPS) team has co-ordinated a system wide response to the London Plan. The team have produced detailed joint responses to the consultations through leading the collaborative work with NHS England (NHSE), NHS Improvement (NHSI) and Community Health Partnerships (CHP).  Our responses have pro-actively sought to ensure that health is prioritised in the emerging Plan.

This is the first time the NHS has coordinated a joint response to a city’s development plan and using the expertise of the NHSPS town planning team has enabled us to take a more well-informed stance. For example, where necessary, recommendations were made to change proposed policies in the draft document and challenge the assumptions used to justify them. We need to ensure that our recommendations coherently align with the needs of a modern NHS, which increasingly relies on the efficient management of its estate to invest much needed funds into services and facilities.

Following the initial series of written responses, an Examination in Public (EiP) was held from January to May 2019, consisting of several hearing sessions led by panel members who were appointed by the Secretary of State. This was an opportunity for key stakeholders from the development, public, community and academic sectors to participate in collaborative discussions about the proposed polices in the Plan. This forum gave the opportunity for clear dialogue to outline challenges and propose solutions to how improvements could be made.

The NHSPS town planning team was invited to speak at these sessions by the EiP panel, on behalf of NHSPS, NHSE, NHSI and CHP. At these sessions, Adrian Powell (Head of Property Development at NHSPS), William Everson (Associate Town Planner at NHSPS) and myself made representations to support emerging policies which are seeking to support social infrastructure, such as health and social care facilities or make the best use of public sector land. Support was also offered to the principle of delivering affordable housing for the public and key workers. However, we raised concerns regarding the proposed policy approach taken to affordable housing delivery on public sector land, which could act as a deterrent to the delivery of residential development on surplus NHS land through treating NHS and privately owned land owners differently.

The NHS Estate Code recognises the importance of the planning system, both in terms of the need to engage so that local health needs are delivered, and the role that it can play in enabling the efficient management of the NHS estate through development, acquisitions and disposals. It is imperative that the NHS is involved in the ongoing formulation of planning policy both in London and across the country, and we are looking forward to the ongoing collaborative work to help and support NHS partners deliver this.

The next stage of the draft London Plan examination will involve the production of a written report by the Panel, which will set out its findings in relation to the EiP. The Panel will take account of the written statements, the discussions at the EiP, and any changes to the draft Plan suggested by the Mayor.

The NHSPS town planning team await this report and further developments on the draft London Plan so that we can continue to vocalise the need for health prioritisation in emerging planning policy.

Aahsan Rahman, Department Head - Town Planning, NHS Property Services