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Councils challenge changes to London Plan

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Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Islington and Camden are seeking a judicial review of the Mayor’s changes to the London Plan

The London boroughs are challenging the changes passed last week which will see affordable rents for housing set at 80 per cent of the market rate.

Southwark Council currently sets its affordable rent level at 40 per cent of market values. But the new London Plan will mean that these rents will double, pricing residents out of the area.

Fiona Colley, Southwark’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: ‘We are very keen to seek a judicial review of this decision.

‘Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80 per cent of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren’t in Southwark.

‘The implication of the mayor’s decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people.’

In Tower Hamlets, where the median household income is £29,383 tenants would need to have a gross household income of £38,680 to afford a two bed property and £48,310 to afford a 3 bed property at 80 per cent of market rent.

Former leader of Tower Hamlets borough council and London Assembly member John Biggs commented: ‘The Mayor’s changes will make London’s housing crisis even worse. They will now push affordable housing out of the reach of many Londoners on low, and in some areas, modest incomes. This will also drive up rent, increase land prices and further distort London’s housing market. Boris should have accepted the recommendations of the Independent Planning Inspector, listened to local authorities and revised his London Plan.’

London boroughs have argued that under the Localism Act, they should be given more flexibility to decide how best to meet their housing need within their own borough-specific planning policies.

Previous story (AJ 04.09.2013)

Changes to London Plan could price Londoners out of capital

Amendments to the London Plan have been slammed by assembly members for pushing up affordable rents.

Approved yesterday, the changes will see affordable rents for social housing set at 80 per cent of the market rate - a move which critics claim will lead to many new properties intended for people on low incomes becoming prohibitively expensive.

London Assembly member Nicky Gavron branded the shake-up, which effectively removes the freedom for boroughs to set their own affordable rent levels, as a ‘flagrant disregard of the spirit of localism’.

Former deputy mayor Gavron said the move could ‘ghettoise the city and put intolerable strain on a range of already overburdened local services in outer London’.

London Assembly members voted on Tuesday (3 September) on whether to accept the proposed changes to the London Plan, exercising new powers brought in through the Localism Act which allows them to reject mayoral strategies.

Members voted 13-9 in favour of throwing out the mayor’s proposed changes, but as the Localism Act requires a two-thirds majority for the rejection of mayoral strategies the alterations to the London Plan were waved through.  

A spokesperson for the London Assembly members added: ‘We agree with the overwhelming majority of London Boroughs – Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat controlled – that were opposed to the revised policies on affordable housing on the basis that: they will make ‘affordable housing’ unaffordable for those who need it; they are very likely to lead to a reduction in the amount of family-sized affordable housing being built across Greater London; and they contradict the spirit of localism by preventing boroughs from setting affordable rent caps with regard to local circumstances and local need.’

The other changes to the plan are minor amendments bringing the plan in line with the NPPF.

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