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Mayor's own rules scupper housing at old headquarters

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Owners of the soon-to-be-vacated mayoral office building, Romney House, in London have rejected plans to convert it into apartments, blaming the mayor's own rules on affordable housing.

Michael Gubbay, director of Motcombe Estates, said Ken Livingstone's 'absurd' affordable housing demands had made any residential scheme for the Marsham Street site untenable.

And he added that Livingstone's hopes of raising levels to as much as 50 per cent would make it increasingly difficult for developers.

Westminster's Unitary Development Plan, in line with mayoral recommendations, would require any new residential scheme for the Romney House building to provide at least 30 per cent affordable housing. In addition, depending on the size of the scheme, it could be directly referable to the mayor.

Motcombe Estates is now in discussions with Sir Terry Farrell and Sidell Gibson Partnership about an office scheme for the building, and is set to approach a further two practices for alternatives.

The mayor and Greater London Assembly are due to move out of the 1930s Romney House and into their new Foster and Partners-designed home in July.

Gubbay said an architect will be chosen within a couple of months and construction will begin once the DTLR's lease runs out in 2003.

A spokesperson for the mayor told the AJ: 'If the developers have concerns they should speak to the planning decisions unit.'

The GLA has also criticised Livingstone for the inclusion of 50 per cent affordable housing targets in his London plan. In its report into the plan, the committee investigating the proposals questioned whether the targets were deliverable and called for 'robust evidence' on the impact of affordable housing targets on new developments.

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