Q&A with Deborah Halling, Senior Policy Officer, Housing & Land, Greater London Authority

QED caught up with Deborah Halling after her visit to Marston Court to understand the GLA’s approach to modular construction and interim development:

Q&A with Deborah Halling, Senior Policy Officer, Housing & Land, Greater London Authority

What were your thoughts on the solution presented at Marston Court?
“It’s good to see Ealing thinking about alternatives to B&B and this scheme certainly seemed preferable to it. My colleague, Maja and I both thought the landscaping, including the provision of a play area was of good quality and the fit with the local area was sympathetic. The attention to easy maintenance seemed sensible too.”

What is the GLA doing from a policy point of view in terms of modular off site construction?
“The Mayor’s Homes for Londoners Board have established a sub-group that’s looking at construction skills, including modular/offsite manufacture. The role of this sub-group is to develop proposals to improve skills provision and promote industry capacity, including around modern methods of construction (MMC)/offsite manufacture (OSM), as well as making recommendations on change or devolution required from central government to enable this.

The sub-group will meet for the first time in the spring, with a view to reporting its findings to the Homes for Londoners Board in the autumn.

The 2016-21 Affordable Homes Programme includes an Innovation Fund, from which providers can seek funding for modular developments.”

What is GLA’s policy for interim development?
“Interim development isn’t treated separately within the current London Plan. We are thinking that there might be value in developing a good practice note about using modular on meanwhile sites. Although this wouldn’t have any weight as a planning policy, it may be helpful in providing some reassurance to planners.”

What funds are available for modular and interim development and how can London Borough’s access these schemes?
“There’s an Innovation Fund within our 2016-21 Affordable Homes Programme to support innovation, and boroughs can also use the standard grant routes that are part of this programme to fund modular developments. The funding guidance and information on how to apply are available at https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we- do/housing-and- land/homes-londoners/homes- londoners- affordable-homes- programme-2016- 21

“We’re working with London Councils to organise an event in March where colleagues who’re working on this fund will promote it to boroughs, as well as boroughs who’ve delivered or are pursuing modular and interim schemes sharing their experiences. We’re really grateful that Robert Turner from Ealing Council has agreed to contribute to this event.”

What can be done now to ensure interim development is better considered for the next London Plan?
“We’d be grateful to have QED’s thoughts on this. There will, of course, be statutory consultation on the draft London Plan, but it would be good to hear from you in advance of this.”

How do you think the GLA can help London Borough’s deliver innovative and interim accommodation solutions?
“I think the main forms of support are funding (the Innovation Fund), encouraging sharing of good practice (events like the one at London Councils and a potential good practice note), and ensuring the London Plan and SPG supports these.

The Deputy Mayor for Housing is very willing to consider proposals from boroughs about collaborative, potentially pan-London approaches to the use of modular accommodation on interim sites to provide accommodation for homeless households, but he is keen for the impetus and ideas for those to come from boroughs, rather than GLA dictating what it thinks would be helpful.”