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Furious Sadiq slams 'wholly unacceptable' cuts to affordable housing at Battersea

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The Mayor of London has said he is ‘furious’ at Wandsworth Council for allowing the developers behind the huge Battersea Power Station scheme to nearly halve the number of affordable homes proposed for the site

Last night the Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) won approval for a number of variations to its section 106 agreement (see below), effectively reducing the number of affordable flats it is obliged to build in the near future at its Battersea plot from 636 to 386.

Rubber-stamped by the borough’s planning committee, the amendment introduces a new end-of-scheme review mechanism which potentially puts at risk about 250 proposed affordable housing units – including 103 affordable homes earmarked for delivery as part of a Foster + Partners-designed development in Phase 3.

If these homes failed to be built, the overall percentage of affordable homes built within the luxury development around Giles Gilbert Scott’s disused Grade II*-listed landmark would drop to just 9 per cent.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London said that, while he had no formal planning powers to block the reduction, he would be urging the local authority to withdraw its decision, which he claims paves the way for ’a wholly unacceptable cut in the amount of affordable housing’.

He said: ‘I am furious over Wandsworth Council’s planning committee’s decision. [If] we are serious about tackling London’s housing crisis, we need all councils in London to be pushing in the same direction. This decision has let Londoners down.

This decision has let Londoners down

‘As this was a change to planning consent granted under the previous mayor, I have no formal planning powers to stop it. However, I have made formal representations to Wandsworth Council, urging them to withdraw the decision and to work with me to secure the absolute maximum amount of affordable housing possible.’

The BPSDC insisted its long-term aim was still to deliver 15 per cent affordable housing as part of the £8 billion project and that the move merely gave the developer more flexibility on timescales.

It added that it was instead planning to bring forward the construction of 386 affordable flats within the Patel Taylor-designed Phase 4a development. These homes would, it was claimed, now be built three years earlier than planned. 

A spokesperson for Battersea Power Station said: ‘Battersea Power Station is determined to deliver 15 per cent affordable homes, equating to 636 homes, and the team is working very hard to make that happen.

‘We understand that asking for flexibility on when the affordable homes are delivered across this 15-year project is not straightforward, but our priority is to make good on the trust people have placed in us by starting on the first 386 affordable homes this year, which is three years earlier than the requirement in the original planning consent.’

Extract from Battersea Power Station Development Company’s application to vary its Section 106 terms

The Applicant is seeking a deed of Variation to the legal agreement associated with the above Outline Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent, in order to alter the provision of the affordable housing. In summary the amendments comprise:

  • baseline affordable housing of 9.1% (386 units in Phase 4a) and amending the commencement triggers in respect of Phase 4a so that the affordable housing in this phase would be delivered earlier than required.
  • relocating 103 affordable housing units from Phase 3b to a later phase(s) alongside the 147 units located in Phase 5 (resulting in 250 affordable housing units located in the later phases).
  • introducing an end of scheme review mechanism linked to an agreed Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in relation to the 250 affordable housing units on the main site that could go up or down, but which targets 15% on site affordable housing and would be capped up to 33% with any affordable housing provision between 15% and 33% being delivered by way of a commuted sum in lieu.
  • The details of the level at which the IRR would be set for the purpose of the review, how the mechanisms for bringing forward/secured the 250 units would work, and how any contribution up to the cap of 33% would be delivered would be discussed between Officers and the Applicant as part of the Section 106 Agreement negotiations to ensure the end of scheme review mechanism provides the best possible way of achieving 15% on site affordable housing.
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Readers' comments (2)

  • The earlier than planned completion of 386 of the 'affordable' homes might just be very welcome in due course, given the spreading impact of the North Kensington disaster, but it does look as if the good councillors of Wandsworth are risking a serious reduction in the longer term provision of affordable housing in the area by bending to the will of the BPSDC .
    But what, in reality, does 'affordable' mean, or is it just somewhat less extortionate? - and is it really the case that the current Mayor has no control over a proposed change to a planning approval granted under the previous mayor, or could this be challenged?

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  • The real question is whether/when public authorities will bite the bullet and start delivering housing at scale, instead of making speeches about how important it all is, and relying on the private sector to do what they should be doing themselves. The 'affordable' housing programme has been a joke from the start: it is an abuse of language, does not provide homes for people on average salaries, and is a proven failure in respect of numbers delivered, under two successive mayors -- and by the looks of it a third. The mayor has land (via TfL and the Legacy Development Corporation), planning powers (both positive and negative) and compulsory purchase powers. He also has political control of the HCA and it budgets. But all he does is wail about what the private sector is or is not delivering, which at best is a drop in the requirement ocean. Why doesn't he get on with it himself?

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