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Developers alarmed at Khan's plans to give estate residents power

Sadiq khan caroline teo gla

Developers have warned Sadiq Khan that his plans to force firms to get residents’ approval before demolishing social homes in the capital would slow down housebuilding

The mayor of London opened a consultation on plans to withhold funding for certain estate regeneration proposals unless they are backed by a majority of people living in an area.

Funding from City Hall plays a part in about 25 estate regeneration schemes that are under way at any one time in the capital.

But Khan proposed that to access funding in the future, a majority vote would be needed in favour of any scheme of 150 new homes or more that involves demolition of any homes owned by a social landlord.

The mayor suggested the ballot be open to votes from social tenants; leaseholders and freeholders who have been living in their properties for at least a year; and any resident who has been on the council housing register for at least 12 months.

But Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the British Property Federation, said the policy was ‘very strong’.

’It risks putting local authorities between a rock and hard place, with central and London government handing down housing delivery targets, while narrowing where homes can be built,’ he warned.

’The mayor himself has already ruled out building on the green belt, and now has put a significant limit on estate regeneration densification, therefore narrowing the options for housing delivery, while significantly increasing the number of homes he wants to see built.

’There must be a worry that he is putting so many constraints on where homes can be built that he will find the delivery numbers challenging.’

A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said: ’The HBF welcomes this initiative to increase affordable housing in London and regenerate the urban fabric of our capital.

We need to ensure policies are for the greater good and do not prevent or delay

’However, we need to ensure policies are positively weighted for the greater good and do not prevent or delay desperately needed regeneration taking place.’

Meanwhile Alex Ely, principal at Mae Architects, said he hoped the ballot scheme could take the politics out of planning decisions.

Mae had a 1,083-home scheme in Barnet rejected by Khan just before Christmas, as it would have meant the net loss of more than 250 affordable homes.

But Ely said 79 per cent of residents had backed the proposals.

He said of the ballot plans: ’This is a welcome announcement and we hope the mayor will now back our Grahame Park project – overturning his previous decision – given the overwhelming support we have for the scheme.’

Metropolitan Workshop partner Neil Deely described the plans as ‘a very positive move’.

’The key to this policy’s success will be in ensuring that the advantages and disadvantages to residents are clearly communicated and that subsequent commitments are delivered,’ he added.

’As the viability calculations on which most regeneration schemes are predicated often appear to be more dark art than science, lots of detailed work will need to be undertaken pre-ballot to establish with certainty that what’s on offer can be delivered.’ 

Explaining the reasons for the move, Khan said: ‘We need more social housing in London, not less, which is why I will use all my powers to make sure that any plans for estate regeneration protect existing social housing and take every opportunity to build more.

‘I want to make sure people living on social housing estates, who have the greatest interest in their future, are at the heart of any decisions from the outset. By involving residents and putting social housing first, we can make sure plans for estate regeneration help build a city for all Londoners.’

Councils welcomed the proposals, which are out to consultation until 3 April.

Local Government Association president Bob Kerslake – also chair of housing association Peabody – said: ‘As a key milestone within a broader consultation process, ballots have the potential to build trust between residents of an estate and their landlord.

’Where they back regeneration plans, they can give everyone involved the certainty they need to get on with building more and better social housing for local people.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • It would be nice to think that architects will always be able to persuade residents that new developmentwill be good for them, but opinion pollsters will tell you that one of the few things guaranteed to unite people across the UK is opposition to construction on their own doorstep. The policy may work but I wouldn't count on it.

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  • John Kellett

    As with most things this is yet another example of those without the relevant knowledge being given permission to dictate to those that do. "The fear of experts" expounded by the likes of 'Daily Mail' readers and UKIP must be resisted. There is no harm in listening to opinions and acting on those that are relevant, the harm is in being forced to act on irrelevant uninformed opinions. Residents do know about living there as a place exists, they can't necessarily know the best way of overcoming the problems :-) MAE's approach did work, Khan's are unlikely too as his are the same 'rules' that led to the bad estates, their lack of maintenance and poor renovation in the first place. Party Politics MUST be taken out of a role in housing and architecture. 'politics' (small p) is powerful, 'Politics' (capital P) is dangerous.
    Actual knowledge is the answer not the problem.

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  • But then again it may concentrate the minds of architects to have to please REAL people, many of whom feel impotent in the face of the choices thrust upon them...and many of whom are quite intelligent enough to understand the subtleties.

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  • Trouble is, as anyone who has lived in a Council house/flat or even a RTB leasehold Council property will know, Councils are just another landlord. They see "Estate Regeneration" as a way to extract money from an estate by building more for-sale flats/houses.
    Problems raised by Kellett such as poor design, poor maintenance, and poor first time renovation were all at the hands of the council landlords.
    So why expect tenants to rush to accept proposals to demolish their estate, re-house them for a coupe of years, and maybe bring them back at higher rents.
    The politics is definitely IN the game, and Kellet's attitude is unhelpful.
    Finch's idea that architects should be the persuaders forgets that architects are not working for the tenants, but for the landlords and do not call the design shots, and secondly their housing record is not good.

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