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Khan accused of ‘watering down’ community-led housing project

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London mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of ‘watering down’ the aims of a north London housing project that was billed as setting a precedent for exemplary community-led development 

The GLA’s purchase of the former hospital site in Haringey last year was welcomed by the local Community Land Trust (CLT), which has fought a long campaign to turn the land into genuinely affordable homes.

City Hall said at the time that its intervention at St Ann’s was an example of what its £250 million Land Fund ‘could achieve’ and that it would work in partnership with the St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART) CLT on the project. 

But now the CLT, which crowdfunded a masterplan for the site designed by Maccreanor Lavington and 6a architects, has accused the mayor of a lack of ambition and of reducing the scheme’s affordable homes target. 

The mayor is planning to go out to tender soon for a development partner to deliver 900 homes on the site with 50 per cent affordable, including 50 community-led homes, and is also including shared ownership properties in the affordable element. 

StART director David King said the GLA’s final offer to residents did little more than comply with its own policy of building 50 per cent affordable housing on public land. He said the CLT had pushed for 65 per cent affordable, and for 150 homes to be transferred to the CLT.

He added that the St Ann’s redevelopment ‘was going to be an exemplar. Other managers could look at it and say we want the StART model, but the distance between our vision and what will be delivered is so great. Surely an exemplar isn’t just policy compliant? It’s a wasted opportunity.’

In addition, StART’s crowdfunded masterplan for the site is not being used, with the GLA is only requiring bidders to refer to it and engage with it rather than it forming the basis for the scheme.

King also said that the GLA asked the CLT to provide six ‘pass or fail’ criteria for sifting briefs from developers, but these criteria are not being used either.

Khan faced questions over the scheme last week (18 July) from Green Assembly Member Sian Berry, who said the final deal for St Ann’s showed a ‘lack of imagination’.

‘In terms of it being community-led, it seems things have been watered down’, she said, adding: ‘Is this [project] really exemplar? Or is this now just a business-as-usual developer-led scheme?’

Is this now just a business-as-usual developer led scheme?

But Khan argued it was ‘thanks to our intervention’, as well as the work of the community, that there had been a huge increase in the amount of affordable housing proposed for the St Ann’s site. 

He said: ‘We’ve got to be sensible about these things. It’s gone from 400 units of housing with 14 per cent affordable under a dodgy definition to 800 homes with 50 per cent affordable.’

Berry also pressed Khan on whether the CLT had signed off the terms of the final deal going out to tender, but the mayor said he was ‘not sure’. 

Khan said: ‘I’ve been determined to make sure St Ann’s is an exemplar of as many of my housing priorities as possible. 

‘Clearly there will be practical limits to what we can achieve and the final details will involve compromise on all sides, but we hope everyone can agree the future of the site has been transformed for the better.’

The StART CLT arose from a previous campaign opposing plans for the redevelopment of the hospital which received permission in 2015 with 14 per cent affordable homes.

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are an increasingly popular development model set up by people to develop and manage their homes.

In two years, the number of CLTs has doubled across the UK. Housing, whether for sale or for rent, is genuinely affordable in perpetuity, based on actual salaries, and is ‘based on people, not profits’.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: ‘The GLA bought the St Ann’s hospital site from the NHS Trust with planning permission for just 14 per cent affordable housing. There are practical restrictions on what we can do, but through buying the site we can now require an absolute minimum of 50 per cent affordable housing – the majority of which will be social rent.

‘The GLA team has been working closely with local residents group StART and the council throughout this process, incorporating many of their suggestions into this very exciting project.’

 6a Architects and Maccreanor Lavington declined to comment. 

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