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Social housing activists protest at Stirling Prize ceremony

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Campaigners, angry at the shortlisting of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ super-luxury NEO Bankside homes for the Stirling Prize, have staged a protest outside RIBA headquarters

Activists from Architects for Social Housing (ASH) said they had targeted the prize’s sold-out ceremony at 66 Portland Place ‘to tell the truth about London’s housing crisis through focusing on the failures of an individual building’.

ASH claims the 217-flat apartment scheme had ‘not only broken every planning requirement for social housing in Southwark’ but also ‘set a very dangerous precedent for the mechanics of social cleansing in London’. 

The group, which also protested at the AJ120 Awards in May and which is led by Simon Elmer and architect Geraldine Dening, said the protest outside Portland Place aimed to highlight how the project had ‘ignored, bent and violated the planning obligations put in place to ensure the building of social housing by London boroughs’ and to showcase ‘the complicity of architects in the demolition of council housing estates’.

ASH said it was protesting against the nomination of the £132 million scheme near Tate Modern because the ‘multimillion-pound luxury apartments and penthouses [were] for non-domiciled tax exiles and foreign investors [and would] still be empty when 88,000 London children are homeless this winter’.

In addition the activists objected to the deal regarding the number and offsite location of the scheme’s affordable flats and how developer Native Land had ‘reduced the percentage of its affordable housing required by Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act from 40 per cent to a paltry 27.5 per cent’.

The campaigners handed out leaflets setting out a list of 16 complaints, accusations and calls to action to guests arriving at the ceremony [read the full text of the leaflet here].

ASH protesters outside the RIBA Stirling Prize

ASH protesters outside the RIBA Stirling Prize

Native Land’s response to ASH’s claims

In the light of recent discussions about the contribution of the Stirling Prize-nominated NEO Bankside to affordable housing, joint developers Native Land and Grosvenor would like to clarify the following facts.

In totality, the NEO Bankside project delivered 217 private homes on site, plus a further 132 social rented and shared ownership homes offsite within the borough of Southwark. The developers also made an £11 million contribution to additional affordable housing provision in Southwark.

The provision of affordable housing by the NEO Bankside project conforms fully with Southwark Council’s planning requirements.

There were a number of variations to the original Section 106 Agreement, reflecting changing economic and market conditions since the original planning consent was granted in 2007, including the inclusion of the additional £11 million contribution.

Native Land, Grosvenor and Southwark Council jointly acknowledged that offsite delivery would result in a significantly greater number of affordable homes being delivered. Early plans for the overall NEO Bankside development had envisaged 32 homes onsite and 88,000 sq ft offsite, in contrast with the 132 homes that will all be delivered by the end of this year and an additional financial contribution to Southwark Council of £11 million.

According to Southwark Council, £6 million of this financial contribution has gone towards 75 new council homes at Willow Walk, which will be completed soon, and a further £5 million is being spent on more council homes across the rest of the borough.

All of the 132 social rented and shared ownership homes have been delivered and occupied, with the exception of seven homes that are currently approaching construction completion.

The affordable homes have been developed in partnership with leading housing associations: Affinity Sutton, Wandle Housing Association and Family Mosaic. All are high-quality projects by architects including MSMR Architects, HLM Architects and Levitt Bernstein.

Of the 132 total affordable homes, 82 are social rented and 50 are shared ownership. All of these homes are within the borough of Southwark and no more than two miles from the NEO Bankside site, in the Borough/Bankside, Bermondsey and Walworth areas.

In addition to affordable housing benefits, the development, through S106, has created a significant new area of public realm to the north of NEO Bankside which was acquired and subsequently gifted to Tate Modern by Native Land and Grosvenor for inclusion in the open space proposals associated with the gallery’s TM2 extension, due to open in 2016.

NEO Bankside included 743m² of offices and 1,410m² of retail/restaurant space, improving local amenities and generating employment.

The development of private residential homes at NEO Bankside has enabled us to deliver a significant number of newly-built affordable homes in Southwark, far more than would have been achieved though onsite provision alone. We have complied fully with Southwark Council’s requirements in their Section 106 Agreement and have worked in close partnership with housing associations and architects to ensure that we provided high-quality, well-designed and well-located homes within the borough.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Like RSHP architects, Native Land claim that Neo Bankside has paid for the construction of 132 affordable homes, 125 of which are completed, 7 of which are still under construction. 82 of these are for social rent and 50 for shared ownership. However, 20 social rent and 18 shared ownership homes were already being delivered or had been planned by housing associations on three of the six sites. Neo Bankside’s actual contribution was a total of 94 affordable homes, of which 62 are for social rent and 32 shared ownership. Even on its reduced affordable housing, Southwark Council has lost 38 homes. For these figures, see http://35percent.org/neo-bankside/

    - Architects for Social Housing

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  • Paul McGrath

    I am not a member of ASH, nor do I support the targeting of individual developments for censure but I did protest outside the RIBA last night.

    Having struggled with the ethics of it beforehand, my final reason for peaceful protest (my first ever) was that staying silent is no longer a justifiable position.

    However you cut up the cake of housing, it is always those most hungry that get the smallest slice. I would hope that all architects with a social conscience might expect the RIBA to have a clear policy on the provision of affordable housing and make that known to the powers that be. There would then be no need to protest.

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