Monday, 9 June 2014

Cowan is right to call-in Tory land deals with low affordable homes %

The new administration is totally right to ask for a review of these sites. I'm not sure how the 'spite' accusation is stood up. 
The new Labour administration in Hammersmith and Fulham, led by Steve Cowan, is totally right to ask for a review of development sites signed off by the outgoing Tory administration there, despite the public attacks in him by some sore loser local Tories (see also this).

To be fair to Steve - he's been arguing about the kind of deals struck by the Tories in developments like Earl's Court for some time, via his blog The Cowan Report.  This is because he knows elsewhere in London Labour authorities have been striking better deals with more social benefit to existing residents (rather than just the kind of residents the Tories would like to see).

King's Cross development was negotiated with new businesses
and 42% affordable housing.

Take the King's Cross development in Camden - negotiated by the Labour council in 2006 and signed off by the Labour Mayor of London - contains 42% affordable housing (700+ units) - new shared ownership homes and student accommodation - a public swimming pool, new primary school, new public library, community space as well as business and private residential (see the full s106 here).


Camden's Community Investment Programme is using council land to spur regeneration and raise money by building private homes - but we are also building over 1100 new council homes and repairing 13,000 flats, 54 schools and building new community facilities.


It's not just Hammersmith and Fulham.  The iconic Battersea Power Station in Wandsworth, proposes only 1300 homes with no affordable homes.  The massive Mount Pleasant site in Clerkenwell, with a 12% affordable housing scheme currently on the table in front of Boris Johnson, who was challenged about this when he made a secret visit there last week.


Now deals where there is a smaller percentage of affordable than a borough's policy sets out are regularly negotiated.  Camden's development at Liddell Road, West Hampstead contains no affordable housing, for example - but Camden council is using the proceeds to fund a new primary school local people need and the council is under an obligation to provide.


At first look the Conservatives seem to have given the developers are very good deal indeed, considering the high residential value captured here - but what we don't see is the social benefit they claim to have gained.


So we ask:


(a) why was there no need for affordable housing, given London's housing crisis?

(b) what solid community gains there were negotiated from developers which would make up for this (e.g. new schools, public libraries etc) and what the reasons were for this trade-off?  

These are legitimate questions: affordable housing is Londoner's number one concern.

Look at the King's Cross development in Camden, negotiated by the Labour council there - 42% affordable housing - and shared ownership homes - a public swimming pool, new primary school, new public library, community space as well as business and private residential. 
The new administration is totally right to ask for a review of these sites. I'm not sure how the 'spite' accusation is stood up. 
Look at the King's Cross development in Camden, negotiated by the Labour council there - 42% affordable housing - and shared ownership homes - a public swimming pool, new primary school, new public library, community space as well as business and private residential.
At first look the Conservatives seem to have given the developers are pretty good deal, considering the high residential value captured here.
At first look the Conservatives seem to have given the developers are pretty good deal, considering the high residential value captured here.

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