London housing shortage: ‘Bakerloo line extension is vital to future housebuilding’, says deputy mayor for planning

The lack of cash to overhaul the creaking Tube system is the biggest threat to London’s future prosperity, warns deputy mayor for planning Jules Pipe.

As the 2020 London mayoral election ramps up, Pipe told Homes & Property the planned £9 billion extension to the Bakerloo line is now “desperately needed”. 

The extension would take the line from its present southernmost destination of Elephant & Castle through to Lewisham initially, before going above ground via Catford Bridge train station to take over the line to Hayes in Bromley borough. 

“[Without the extension] we are in danger of bad growth along Old Kent Road,” says Pipe. “Buses are already backed up and without work to the Bakerloo line it’s hard to justify more new homes. We will hit a wall with planners who will start to say no more homes if there’s no transport infrastructure.”

With central Government focused on Brexit, the extension remains unfunded. There is a knock-on effect, too, Pipe continues: “The longer it [the Bakerloo line extension] is left, the urgency grows for vital upgrades elsewhere, such as the Piccadilly line.”

The proposed Bakerloo line extension would take the Tube beyond Elephant & Castle through to Lewisham initially, and eventually via Catford to Hayes in Bromley (Daniel Lynch)

In his current role, Pipe, a former mayor of Hackney, is also responsible for regeneration and skills at City Hall. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s team has reached a crunch point with its draft London Plan, which has been nearly four years in the making.

It could come into force in January, just a few months before the mayoral election in May when former Tory MP and now Independent candidate Rory Stewart plans to run against Labour’s Sadiq Khan. 

Pipe’s plan also focuses on promoting town centres across Greater London: “We don’t want residential areas left dormant while people pile into trains to come into central London. We want vibrant community centres with shared co-working space and leisure facilities with good transport links.”

Live-work homes

The most radical part of the plan, in Pipe’s view, is the industrial and commercial strategy. Under the Boris Johnson-led City Hall, too many light industrial buildings were lost, he says. “With online shoppers creating a  high demand for deliveries to the doorstep we can’t put all logistics sheds outside the capital.” Pipe suggests building three-storey industrial units with new homes integrated into the schemes.

At this week’s London property conference MIPIM UK, Pipe tackled another major problem  — a skills crisis in the construction industry. The UK’s construction workforce is ageing, with one in 10 workers set to leave the sector in the next nine years. And a third of London’s construction site workforce comes from the EU, so it is difficult to know, until Brexit is settled, if they will still be there.

Pipe believes we have lost construction workers because these skills aren’t taught at further education colleges. “The sector needs to change its reputation and this has to start at primary school age,” he says. 


The construction site workforce is under Brexit threat, while the skills aren’t taught in UK colleges, warns Jules Pipe, who says children should be urged to consider a future career in the industry (Shutterstock / Myroslava Malovana)

As part of the Mayor’s Construction Academy, Pipe is piloting a new accreditation system for housebuilders and the construction  industry to deliver quality apprenticeship schemes. “We must not tramline children into certain sectors,” he says. 

“There is enormous breadth in the construction industry, from training to be designers creating such things as marble entrance halls in the City’s grandest offices, to the huge technical challenges of working on an amazing project such as Crossrail.”

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