Islington Council has thrown out contentious plans to redevelop Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site in Clerkenwell, London
The north London local authority’s planning committee unanimously rejected the proposed 680-home scheme by Allies and Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley, Wilkinson Eyre and AHMM on Monday night (10 March).
The move came just two weeks after neighbouring borough Camden Council also unanimously rejected the 2.6ha scheme which has angered local residents because of its scale and low level of affordable housing.
London mayor Boris Johnson however could still approve the 93,000m² project which was called-in in January after City Hall ruled it was unlikely Camden and Islington councils would ‘be in a position to determine the two applications in the near future.’
Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, councillor James Murray said: ‘Royal Mail’s offer of 12 per cent affordable housing at Mount Pleasant is derisory - and it’s an insult when we have an independent viability report saying at least 50 per cent is possible.’
He added: ‘Local people will miss out on hundreds of new affordable homes if Boris Johnson waves through these plans. Last night’s vote sends a clear message to the mayor that he must listen to local people and throw this scheme out.’
Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for South Islington and Finsbury, said Mount Pleasant and Foster and Partners’ nearby 250 City Road redevelopment – also called in by the mayor in December – had the potential to provide 800 new social rented homes for the borough which has thousands on its waiting list.
On both schemes Islington Council demanded 50 per cent affordable housing. Thornberry said: ‘Boris Johnson has to prove he is not just the developers’ friend and knows what the priorities of people in Islington are.’
Addressing the mayor, Edward Denison of the campaign group Mount Pleasant Association added: ‘Do what is right for London – reject this scheme now and let’s get on with the urgent task of delivering a world class development that meets the needs of all.’
A spokesperson for Royal Mail said the level of affordable housing had been calculated to ensure the viability of the planned development.
They said an initial assumption of 20 per cent affordable housing was used for the scheme’s environmental statement but a viability study later concluded the ‘maximum reasonable’ level of affordable housing was 12 per cent.
The spokesperson added: ‘We remain committed to transforming our Mount Pleasant site and contributing to the regeneration of this inner city area.’ (See full response below).
Plans were submitted for planning last summer around the same time Terry Farrell completed a £32 million overhaul of Royal Mail buildings on the site not earmarked for redevelopment.
Farrells masterplanned the residential redevelopment up until summer 2012.
The Greater London Authority has taken on the role of planning authority for the scheme which alongside housing includes shops, offices, restaurants and public space. A mayoral decision is expected in the summer.
Royal Mail statement
We are following the standard approach to calculating the maximum reasonable proportion of affordable housing that ensures the viability of a planned development.
To free up space for housing, Royal Mail has to meet the very significant costs of undergrounding all of its lorries and vans and the loading bays that service them. This has to be factored in when determining what proportion of affordable housing is financially viable for the development. The Planning Applications included an initial assumption for the provision of affordable housing at 20 per cent, purely for the purposes of assessing the impact of the scheme through the Environmental Statement. This assumption was made, and indeed the applications submitted, whilst the initial viability study was still ongoing, as is standard practice for schemes of this size and complexity. Royal Mail’s subsequently completed viability assessment indicated that the ‘maximum reasonable’ level of affordable housing that could be provided by the scheme is in the order of 12% and an initial offer in line with this was made to both Local Authorities. To date no agreement has been reached as to the final provision, and discussions around viability continue between Royal Mail, the GLA and the Local Authorities. The final decision rests with the Mayor of London.
The redevelopment will also provide 1,250 new jobs in the wider economy. The regeneration will contribute to improvements to public services in the immediate area, such as schools and health services, through Section 106 payments. It will also complement the new postal museum and visitor centre planned by the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) as well as the new Crossrail station at Farringdon.
Our scheme has been designed by four award-winning architects. Following earlier criticism from Thomas Heatherwick, he has subsequently contacted members of each practice apologising for his comment while acknowledging that when he made them, he had not examined the designs in any detail.
We remain committed to transforming our Mount Pleasant site and contributing to the regeneration of this inner city area.