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Khan seeks surplus land deal to build homes for key workers

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is seeking to establish a deal to secure surplus public land for homes for emergency workers.

The Harris Review, published in October, warned that there could be a “significant impact” in the event of a major terrorist attack in London because fire, police and NHS workers would not be able to reach the capital quickly. This is because many emergency service workers are being forced to live outside the capital because of the high cost of housing combined with low wages.

Lord Harris’ two top recommendations were that Khan should ask the chair of the London Resilience Forum to consider the impact of the number of emergency workers living outside the city in the event of a major incident; and that he should consider amending the London Plan to formally state that there is a need for specialist emergency worker housing.

When asked about the report in a Mayor’s Question Time session before the London Assembly last week, Khan said that he had already asked the chair of the forum to consider the issues raised, but that his team was considering a more detailed response.

Furthermore, he described discussions with public sector land owners about their “important role” in bringing forward land for affordable housing, which would be included in his forthcoming affordable housing strategy.

However, Khan said more needed to be done to reach a deal for government departments to inform London’s City Hall when surplus public land becomes available.

“Often the NHS or the police are good at what they do,” he said. “They’re not good at using surplus land for the public good, and so we’re hoping we can come to a deal with the government so we can be the ringmaster when it comes to this land and use it for affordable housing.”

The mayor added that he was working “very collegially” with Gavin Barwell, who was appointed minister for London by Theresa May, and that Barwell “understood the problem”.

Khan has previously secured the release of Transport for London land near Kidbrooke station for affordable housing.

However, initiatives to deliver more efficient use of public sector land have been met with mixed success. A series of Freedom of Information requests by PSE found that the government’s flagship Right to Contest scheme, which allows members of the public to request the release of land, had led to just six sales since 2014.

London’s STPs delivered with a ‘lack of transparency’

Khan was later questioned by assembly members about London’s five sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

“I want to be clear that the success of these STPs will depend on having an open, engaging and iterative process that harnesses the energies of clinicians, patients, carers, residents, community partners, local government and the wider community,” he replied.

The mayor accused the government of delivering STPs with a “lack of transparency” which gave the impression that they were being “taken for political expediency”.

The London mayor has no direct responsibility for the NHS, but Khan promised to “continue to challenge” London NHS leaders about involving the public in STPs at regular meetings.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the LGA, recently predicted that STPs will “meet opposition” because of the lack of involvement from councils.

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