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Mount Pleasant plans get final sign-off

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Controversial plans to redevelop a Royal Mail site in central London with a 681-home scheme have received final approval

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has announced that planning conditions and the section 106 planning-obligation agreement for the Mount Pleasant development, which has been designed by Allies and Morrison, Wilkinson Eyre, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and AHMM, have now been signed.

London Mayor Boris Johnson approved the scheme in principle last year after using his planning powers to wrest determination of the scheme from Islington and Camden councils, whose boundary the site straddles.

Decision notices sent to the Royal Mail’s planning consultants on March 30 said the landowners had three years to commence development of the 10-block scheme, which also includes office and retail space.

However, the GLA has yet to publish details of the Section 106 agreement providing confirmation of the development’s affordable housing commitments. A statement on the website said the document would be uploaded “as soon as possible”.

The scheme was opposed by many local residents and community group the Mount Pleasant Association, which is developing rival plans for the site based on designs by classicist architect Francis Terry.

The association is currently working up a Community Right to Build (CRtB) proposal to progress its scheme, partly using funding from the GLA, that would result in a lower-rise but higher-density development.

Association member and Bartlett School of Architecture teaching fellow Edward Denison told AJ that its CRtB bid, which is being supported by social enterpise Create Streets, was at the stage of drawing up detailed proposals for the part of the main site.

He added that the group expected to be in a position to make a bid to buy the site from Royal Mail later this year.

“We’ve got proper financial backing to buy the site,” he said.

“We’re pretty confident that we can put a bid together.

“As far as we know [Royal Mail] haven’t got a developer, and as long as that remains the case we’re still in with a shout.”

Previous story (AJ 03.10.2014)

Islington Council attacks Boris over Mount Pleasant approval

Islington Council has hit out at the Mayor of London’s decision to approve contentious plans for the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site, claiming the proposals ‘are wrong’ for London

Boris Johnson, who controversially took the planning decision out of the hands of the authority in January, rubberstamped the 681-home scheme by Allies and Morrison, Wilkinson Eyre, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and AHMM earlier today.

However the council, which had wanted to rejected the huge plans, said the proposed scheme on the Islington/Camden border would provide just 24 per cent affordable housing. It also warned that the ‘affordable’ rents proposed were around twice the local rate for council or social housing.

Islington and Camden councils also claim they have received ‘independent advice’ which states that ‘almost twice’ the amount of affordable

James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: ‘A vital opportunity to build hundreds of genuinely affordable homes for local people has been bulldozed by Boris.

‘We need genuinely-affordable housing in the capital - but today’s decision means that Londoners are missing out, whilst investors in luxury flats and Royal Mail shares are benefitting. This decision is wrong for London.’

Islington, which had supported calls from residents for the application to be deferred. added that the ‘the windfall’ to the Royal Mail following the decision was ‘likely to be tens of millions’.

Yet, speaking after the meeting this morning, Johnson said his approval had saved the development from languishing on the drawing board. The mayor was asked by the Royal Mail Group to rule on the plans, after they complained that the local authorities were taking too long to come to a decision.

He said: ‘London is growing at a record rate and within a few years there will be more people living here than at any time in the city’s history.

‘Building new homes is absolutely crucial and by working closely with the local authorities and Royal Mail we have been able to bring forward a scheme that had been in serious danger of stalling while doubling the amount of affordable homes.’

Previous story (AJ 30.06.14)

Boris accused of bias over Mount Pleasant overhaul

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been accused of bias following his comments praising the controversial Mount Pleasant scheme in central London.

Johnson, who has called in the scheme, has been accused of favouritism after he said the scheme was ‘a beautiful design’ and ‘a wonderful place to live’.

Speaking at the LBC ‘State of London’ debate on June 25 at the O2 Johnson said: ‘Every week I get the Islington Tribune denouncing me for trying to get some scheme going at Mount Pleasant which will deliver thousands of homes for Londoner’s because they don’t like it because they don’t like the design.

‘We can’t have it all ways, we can’t insist that we build rows of thatched cottages.

‘Sometimes my colleagues in the boroughs can be a little bit slow in getting things off the ground.’

Considered one of the biggest housing developments in central London, the 680-home scheme by AHMM, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Wilkinson Eyre and Allies & Morrison. was rejected unanimously by both Islington and Camden Councils. It has been criticised for the high density of the development and the fact it will provide only around 12 per cent affordable housing.

Johnson has a legal obligation as the planning authority presiding over the scheme to remain neutral. The Mayor called in the £100m development stating that the decision needed speeding up.

Residents in Clerkenwell have stated that the Mayor has ignored their calls that the scheme could be disastrous.

Edward Denison, secretary of the Mount Pleasant Association has called the Mayor of pre-determining’ the decision over the scheme.

Speaking to the Islington Tribune, Jenette Arnold, London Assembly member for Islington said that Johnson was ‘deaf to our pleadings and blind to our lives.

‘This man does not know what being objective is.’

The Mount Pleasant scheme has attracted criticism from both architects and designers. Earlier this year designer Thomas Heathewick called the scheme ‘empty, cynical and vacuous’

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