For example, the administrative political powers of the GLC are now covered by the City of London and the thirty-two boroughs, yet many have argued that such a definition of the boundaries of London is hopelessly outdated (Figure 1) and that London's sphere of influence in jobs and other area has expanded outwards to include a large part of South East England (Hall, 1989, page 1). At the same time, the difficulties of implementing regional policies in an areas which has a diverse range of local authorities of different political persuasions and interests have also become apparent (e.g. Hall, 1976, page 479). These types of problems have not been solved by the abolition of the GLC, as the area covered by UDPs is the same as that covered by the GLC.
It seems to be clear that any strategic planning for London should be formulated in the context of London's functional importance for the whole of the South East. The aim of this article is to assess the importance of strategic planning in the provision of affordable housing. In its Strategic Planning Advice for London, the London Planning Committee (LPAC) stated its belief that strategic guidance should promote the need for low-cost housing rather than just meeting market demands (1988,page 11). They based this belief on a number of facts, such as the estimate that about one million households in London cannot house themselves within the private market because of insufficient income (page 12). This situation is likely to be exacerbated by the decline in council housing and rise in rents. LPAC concluded that the role of housing associations would have to be increased substantially and that large developments should only gain planning permission if at least 25% of the scheme was affordable housing for low or middle income households (page 14). This advice was not taken up by the Secretary of State until the publication of Circular 7/91 titled Planning and Affordable Housing (DoE, 1991a). This circular states that planners may reasonably negotiate with developers for an element of affordable housing in any scheme, but does not define affordability. Planners are also unable to stipulate that the houses should be for rent. In a paper titled Access to Affordable Housing, SERPLAN (1990) noted that the National Federation of Housing Associations insisted that affordable rents should not exceed 20% of net income or 33% in London (page 16).
There are problems implementing these proposals, especially in London. For example, the London Borough of Islington included a policy in their UDP that new development should include 25% of affordable housing. This was rejected by the inspector at the inquiry who considered that most sites were unlikely to be big enough and that any large sites would consequently be overloaded in order to achieve the overall target. Furthermore, even housing associations are increasingly unlikely to be able to charge affordable rents. Fair rents increased by 20% in 1989 and the Housing Corporation's new funding regime brought about by the 1988 Housing Act is also likely to push up the rents charged by housing associations (see below). This essay will assess if policies developed as a result of Circular 7/91 are likely to be achieved in practice by examining the role of the Housing Corpo