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Council ordered to disclose Heygate’s affordable housing viability

A tribunal has ruled that Southwark Council disclose information on how the decision about affordable housing levels at the Heygate Estate was decided

The decision comes after a long campaign by those battling to see the full document.

The regeneration scheme at Elephant and Castle’s Heygate Estate has an affordable housing target of just 25 per cent – while the borough’s target is 35 per cent.

The reduction in affordable housing had been heavily criticised by local campaign group, 35 Percent, who had called for the scheme’s viability assessment to be made public.

In a statement the campaign group said: ‘The viability assessment enabled Lend Lease to build less affordable housing than required by planning policy. The public should now be able to see whether Southwark’s decision to waive policy requirements was justified. It was claimed at the planning committee meeting that just 9.4 per cent affordable housing was viable. Only 79 social-rented homes will be built on the whole Heygate development - approx 3 per cent of the total.’

Last year, the council published a redacted version of the report but were told by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that public interest outweighed commercial confidentiality and were later ordered to publish the report in full. However Southwark Council appealed the decision.

The appeal’s ruling now allows the council to withhold information on the scheme’s development model accepting that Lend Lease’s model was a ‘trade secret’.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘Without some commercially sensitive information remaining private, developers could simply refuse to work with councils, leaving boroughs without the housing and regeneration we all need.’

Last month, Lend Lease put 360 new homes on the former Heygate Estate up for sale – the first phase of the area’s regeneration.

Completed in 1974, the estate designed by Tim Tinker originally provided more than 1,100 council homes in blocks of 12-storey flats. Demolition began on the troubled estate in 2011.

The plan for the Elephant and Castle, as it is now, proposes 4,000 new homes is set to be completed by 2026.

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