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‘Flexible and balanced’ approach to planning could stop West End decline

A new study from the Westminster Property Association (WPA) and Arup has found that a more ‘balanced and flexible’ approach to planning could address the recent sharp decline in major development projects in the West End and deliver an additional 14m sq ft of commercial space and create 87,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.

The research, Delivering Good Growth in Westminster, was published amid concerns that a sustained decrease in development activity will threaten the West End’s position as a key business district and impact tax revenues that fund services in the area and across the UK.

According to the WPA, Westminster’s Central Activity Zone (CAZ), which contributes 14% of London’s economic output (GVA) and 13% of jobs, has experienced a 3.7m sq ft loss of office floorspace since 2019, despite the opening of the Elizabeth line. In addition, Westminster has seen an 81% decrease in major planning applications since 2016.

The study, which is the first of its kind in Westminster, examines how different approaches to planning policy, sustainability and conservation could impact development and economic output to 2045.

Marcus Geddes, chair of the WPA, said: “Westminster is a key economic engine of London and the UK. This study lays bare the huge impact planning policy can have on social and economic prosperity.”

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