May 2020 – planning applications in London’s West End

The slightly frightening graphs precipitated by the publication of April’s GDP stats showing a calamitous, if unsurprising, 20% decline in the UK’s GDP were at least a timely prompt to me to update my analysis of planning activity in London’s West End during of May.

Again, unsurprisingly, this shows a continued reduction in activity, although a slower rate of decline than in April. Overall, May saw about 200 applications (of all types, the blue line) submitted, a decline of about 50% from the long term average rate. Planning applications “proper” (ie not including listed building consents, discharge of conditions and the wider panoply of other planning related activity) were down about 45%.

Planning applications – this year and 15 year average

It will be interesting to look at the June figures to see if activity starts to trend up again as the West End plans for reopening and starts to work through the physical and use implications of reconfiguring central London for whatever comes next.

The graph below is the total monthly applications from 2004 – the thick red red line is a three month rolling monthly average to try to make this a bit more intelligible. Again, this illustrates the scale of the current decline against the 2008 recession. This time, I’ve plotted this as an index for comparison against the monthly GDP stats. This does also show that, in the recovery of the 2008 recession planning activity broadly tracked GDP, but in the last five years or so the two have separated, with planning activity in the West End trending down.

Planning applications and UK GDP change, from 2004

(As an aside, whilst at first glance it looks like the West End suffers from chronic arrhythmia, this also illustrates that planning activity regularly spikes each summer. It seems that submitting planning applications is a popular summer past-time – who knew!?)

As always, both graphs can be seen in larger scale here.

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