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Prescott housing targets spark Westminster backlash

Westminster City Council is on the verge of taking legal action against the Government Office for London (GOL) over 'draconian' targets for affordable housing.

The council is furious that deputy prime minister John Prescott forced it to amend its Unitary Development Plan (UDP), by increasing the amount of affordable housing on sites outside the central zone from 30 to 50 per cent. He also directed Westminster to reduce the affordable housing threshold in new developments from 15 to 10 dwellings.

As a result, the borough was left with no option but to grudgingly drop its original UDP at its full council meeting on Monday (13 December) and the council is now looking to challenge the ruling in the courts.

Councillor Robert Davies, the cabinet minister for planning, said the move could lead to a reduction in the overall number of affordable homes. 'It's just so short-sighted - the big construction boys won't build any residential units here anymore, ' he said.

Davies is also furious about the announcement's timing. 'The first thing we knew about it was last week, even though they have had two and a half years to tell us we were on the wrong track, ' he added.

Yet the government seems keen to press on with enforcing the mayor's London Plan targets. 'The statutory plan sets a strategic target for London that 50 per cent of new housing should be affordable, ' a spokesman said.

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