London Mayor gets tough on developers reducing number of affordable homes
The Mayor of London has demonstrated that developers will have to fulfil their commitments to affordable housing after rejecting plans which would have lowered the proportion of these types of properties on a major site in the city. Sadiq Khan has taken a tough stance and refused to accept a lowering of the affordable housing quota on a new development on the site of the former New Scotland Yard building.
‘The shortage of affordable homes is at the heart of the housing crisis in our city. This new scheme put forward for the former New Scotland Yard site is simply unacceptable. It fails to provide the maximum amount of affordable housing that could be delivered on this landmark site,’ he said.
‘I’m doing all I can to tackle London’s housing crisis and by rejecting this application, I am sending a clear signal on the importance of building affordable homes. This is a site which has only recently been transferred from public ownership and sits within one of the most expensive areas of the country. Having carefully considered the evidence available to me, I have decided to refuse permission for this amended application,’ he added.
The site in Westminster was sold by the previous Mayor who then allowed planning permission to be granted for a development offering only 10 affordable homes, just 4% of all units. BL Developments then sought to increase the total number of homes by 27, from 268 to 295, with no increase in the number of affordable units or payment in lieu, meaning the level of affordable housing fell further still to only 3%.
Shortly after becoming Mayor, Khan instructed City Hall’s planners to recruit a team of viability experts to scrutinise the level of affordable housing in all planning applications referred to him, the first time City Hall has had this in house expertise.
Scrutiny of the application to increase the number of homes at Broadway found its offer of no extra affordable homes nor any payment in lieu would mean it failed to deliver the maximum amount of affordable housing viable.
Khan has also strongly criticised Wandsworth Council for allowing the developers of Battersea Power Station to slash the amount of affordable housing by 405 from 636 to 386 or only 9% of the 4,239 homes across the scheme. The Mayor had no formal power to intervene under current planning regulations, but wrote to the Council to object to the decision in the strongest terms.
Khan described the cut in the number of affordable homes at Battersea as ‘outrageous’. He added; ‘I am more determined than ever to do all I can to ensure Londoners are not short changed when it comes to developers doing their bit to help tackle London’s housing crisis.
‘The Government now needs to show it is committed to this too and devolve the powers to help me stop developers getting away with unacceptably low levels of affordable housing.’
Recent research conducted for the upcoming London Housing strategy says that the housing shortage is severely affecting Londoners. It reveals that since 2010 average private rents in London have risen more than five times as fast as average earnings.
It also shows that in 2016, the gap in house prices between London and the rest of the country reached the widest ever recorded and more than a quarter of Londoners now live in poverty once housing costs are taken into account.
The Mayor wants the Government to give London greater control over its own resources so that more can be done, including investing more in new homes and infrastructure, bringing forward more land for more homes more quickly and freeing up councils and housing associations to build more.
Earlier this year the Mayor published his Supplementary Planning Guidance on viability and affordable housing, which said that developers offering at least 35% affordable housing without public subsidy could expect a quicker, more certain route through the planning system.