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West End Green Development - Affordable Housing Provision- Letter to Robert Davis

West End Green Development - Affordable Housing Provision- Letter to Robert Davis

Stephen Quinn from our Planning Panel has sent the following letter to Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment Councillor Robert Davis, about the proposals to redevelop the site known as West End Green(285-329 Edgware Road), just behind the police station where Edgware Road crosses the Marylebone Road. 

Dear Robert,

We were interested, and surprised to see that your committee recently granted permission to the proposals for 285-329 Edgware Road.

You will know that the Marylebone Association objected to these proposals on many grounds. I know that, frustratingly for us, this is all water under the bridge now, but, I would however like to ask you about one aspect of this development.

Your committee agreed to allow the developer to provide the following affordable housing provision:

126 affordable units on-site comprising 49 intermediate units and 77 social rented units. Out of a total of 691 units, this works out at less than 20% of the total number of units and only just over 10% of units which would be socially rented. As you know, this is in spite of your officers’ comments in their report as follows:

Affordable Housing Policy S16 of Westminster City Council’s City Plan sets out the council's intention with regards to affordable housing. It states: "WCC will aim to exceed 30% of new homes to be affordable homes and proposals for housing developments of either ten or more additional units will be expected to provide a proportion of the floorspace as affordable housing."

The council's own housing markets analysis sets out that there are 4,500 households on the waiting list for social housing within the local authority area. In 2014 the council's commissioned housing market study set out that "The backlog need for affordable housing is estimated to be circa 6,068."

It also estimated that local households would need a gross annual income of £63,200 to rent a one-bedroom flat without assistance; a family in need of a three-bed property would need a gross income of £119,200.

Given this desperate need for affordable housing locally and the size of the proposed development, it is unacceptable that the proposal does not meet the council's on-site affordable housing expectations. The current proposals for only 84 socially rented units and only 74 intermediate rented units provides only 158 affordable units or 22.8% out of the total number of 691 residential units proposed. That is a minimum of 50 on-site affordable homes less than the policy intention set out in policy S16.

The previous development plans sought to deliver a total 107 affordable housing units or 35 per cent of the 307 residential units proposed. Consent for the proposed development should be withheld unless the scheme can exceed the council's policy of 30% on-site affordable housing provision.

This is an easily accessible site, a straight-forward flat build and there are reasonable arguments as to why it cannot be compliant with the council's policy S16. They object to the scheme on the basis that unless the scheme can be made to exceed the council's policy S16 with on-site provision, it will not deliver a commensurate benefit to the borough given its proposed size.

I assume that you would say in response to this that that the developers’ financial viability statement claims that this is all that they can afford to provide.

When I write to our members about this issue, my guess is that they will find it very difficult to believe that the developers were unable to provide any more than this. Moreover, they might even think that the Council was weak or ineffective in their negotiations about this provision.

Given that Westminster still refuses to publish financial viability reports, I fear that our members might also suspect something is being hidden from them, especially given the number of other London Boroughs that publish these assessments, or have indicated their intention to do so in the near future.

Might you be able to drop me a line that I could pass on to our members which would give them the necessary reassurances that the above is not the case ?

As you know, this is a very thorny and important issue for our members here in Marylebone, where there is a desperate need for affordable housing for the many reasons that we have discussed on various occasions.

Yours sincerely
Stephen Quinn

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

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