1. Governance
July 13, 2015updated 04 Aug 2023 8:35am

The vast, vast majority of Boris Johnson’s London Housing Zones are in Labour-voting areas

By Jonn Elledge

NOTE: We updated this story on at 9.30am on Tuesday 14th July, to reflect the fact we’d neglected to mention London’s councils and, er, had mislocated Battersea slightly. We apologise for the confusion, and are happy to make this correction.

London’s city government is, sort of, and pretty belatedly, trying to tackle the city’s rather eye-watering housing crisis.

Its weapon of choice is to create 20 new “housing zones”: brownfield sites with fast-tracked planning permission, on which the Greater London Authority (GLA), individual boroughs and national government will cooperate to get homes built at a relatively breakneck speed.

In all, the GLA claims, it’s dedicating £162m to the schemes. If all goes to plan, they’ll deliver 50,000 homes between them, as well as the transport links, schools and other amenities needed to serve them.

In late June, the city announced another five of these zones, all in the north eastern quadrant of the city. This round brings the total number announced to 15, and the total number of homes they’re expected to hold up to 45,109 (of which 14,055 will be affordable).

All of which is lovely. Except – and maybe we’re being cynical – we can’t help but notice a pattern here.

Here’s a graphic showing details of the new homes, courtesy of our old muckers at the planning consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners:

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And here’s a map of the results in London at last May’s election.

London’s results in the UK general election of May 2015. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Banawu2.

(Brief key for non-Brits: Blue is the Conservative party, who currently hold power both nationally and at City Hall; red is the opposition Labour party; yellow is the centrist Liberal Democrats.)

So, what happens if you combine the two maps?

Almost all of these new housing developments is in a Labour voting-constituency. The only one that’s even borderline, in fact, is Battersea Riverside, most of which is in Tory Battersea, but which is close enough to the border with Labour Vauxhall that it’ll affect residents in both.


Things don’t look much better if you look at councils instead of parliamentary constituencies:

The results of London’s 2014 council elections; black means “no overall control”. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Nilfanion/Doc77can.

Battersea Riverside again straddles the border between a Tory borough and a Labour one; so does Thamesmead, south of the river much further east, which straddles Labour Greenwich and Tory Bexley (h/t: @geographyJim). And Beam Park, across the Thames, is in the Labour-voting bit of Tory-leaning Havering. (It’s in “No overall control”, but it’s the Residents’ Assocation, not Labour, that are challenging the Tories for power.)

But again, most of the activity is focused on Labour-voting areas.

Once again, we say: hmmmm.

Now, let’s be fair about this. Labour is stronger in the capital than it is elsewhere, holding 45 seats compared to the Tories’ 27. So you’d expect its constituencies to take a disproportionate share.

What’s more, if you’re going to focus on brownfield – that is, land that has been built on at some point in the past – then you’re most likely to be looking at run down inner city zones, or ex-industrial ones out in the suburbs. These generally correlate with poorer areas, which are more likely to vote Labour.

In other words, the fact so much of the new housing is falling to Labour-voting areas is probably a matter of pragmatism, rather than one of political cynicism.

Nonetheless, it means all the disruption, and all the political opposition, to the schemes so far announced will fall on those areas that aren’t likely to vote for the governing Conservative party anyway. Meanwhile, Tory boroughs like Bromley – which, lest we forget, is literally half empty – will go entirely unscathed.

That said, there are still another five Housing Zones yet to be announced. There’s all that space out in suburbs, just sitting there. And the young people of Bromley and Barnet need homes of their own, too.

So, Boris – how about it?

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