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Mayor funds developer that fought his own ‘Parker Boris’ standards

Pocket Living campaigned for exception to allow smaller homes to be built

London mayor Boris Johnson has given £21.7 million of loan funding to a developer which lobbied to water down his own minimum space standards.

Pocket Living has been picked to deliver 4,000 homes for the Greater London Authority over the next 10 years, despite campaigning for an exception allowing homes to be built smaller than ‘Parker Boris’ London Housing Design Guide requirements.

It is understood that just over 4 per cent of the 182 residential units that have been completed by the developer to date fall below the current minimum size (37m²) – although some projects pre-date the policy’s adoption.

The developer has already built eight studios, ranging in size from 29m² to 32m² and has won planning for two further studios of 32.5m² as part of a Waugh Thistleton-designed redevelopment scheme in Marcon Road, Hackney, which has yet to start on site.

The mayor’s programme – aimed at buyers who earn too much to qualify for social housing but are priced out of the open market – is part of Johnson’s bid to deliver 100,000 new homes. The plan comes five years after the mayor vowed to outlaw ‘rabbit hutches’ in the capital.

While all the new housing delivered under the Pocket deal will meet the mayor’s minimum space standards, the company is believed to have been instrumental in the inclusion in London’s Supplementary Planning Guidance of the lowest tier of 37m² ‘one person’ studio flats and an exception allowing even smaller homes of ‘exemplary design’. Draft mayoral standards published three years ago set the minimum for a one bedroom dwelling at 50m².

Pocket chief executive Marc Vlessing said: ‘We have (throughout our history) built two or three studios at 29m² and it is nothing compared to our 182 one-bed flats, which are London Housing Design Guide compliant.

‘When it comes to our one bedroom stock, we are entirely within the mayoral standards. That’s because we fought to ensure the mayoral standards included our one bedroom 37m² flat.’

Commenting on the Marcon Road scheme, Waugh Thistleton associate Tom Westwood said: ‘The vast majority of Pocket development provide one-bedroom flats of 38m² and our brief was to fit as many of those units on the site as is sensible. Obviously, with the high value of land in London, you cannot afford not to use space.’

Planning consultant Will Lingard of Turley Associates said: ‘If we want people to have decent and affordable accommodation close to where they work, compromises are inevitable. These flats may well be “undersized” but they have an important role to play as part of a wider offer within a bigger development.’

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