The Last Lap – Planning applications in London’s West End – September to November 2020

Now that we’ve finally seen the back of 2020 I’ve done a quick update to see what happened to planning application volumes in London’s West End from September through to the end of November.

If you’ll recall the story so far of 2020 has been:

  1. A precipitous decline in March when Lockdown 1 kicked in;
  2. Strong growth again in July, up a third on the previous month and recovering to close to 80% of the long-term average;
  3. The usual August slowdown – but perhaps more pronounced than usual as it extended into September.

The latest figures again show a strong recovery in October, with applications, overall, surging 31% on the previous month and “/FULL” applications (planning applications ‘proper’ as opposed to adverts, chairs and tables, etc) getting closer to their long term average levels. That trend in planning applications proper continued into November (despite the second lockdown), with the number of /FULL applications recovering to over 90% of long-run average levels, even as activity overall fell back again.

Of course question is, what effect Lockdown 2.0 in November, and the general deterioration in the Covid-19 situation over December (including London’s effective Lockdown III), will have on activity, given the usual lag times?

Again, I’ve also included the long-term plot of monthly activity (light red), rolling three-month average (thick red) and UK GDP (purple), which does suggest that overall planning activity and GDP are showing similar trends, with a quick immediate recovery following the first lock-down now plateauing.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there have been some significant changes to the planning system that have removed the need for planning permission in many cases, particularly around the change of use of commercial premises. So it is quite possible that this could start to affect total volumes in due course.

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