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Westminster to wave through affordable homes swap in Foster's Whiteleys scheme

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Controversial changes to the affordable housing element in Foster + Partners’ scheme to convert the former Whiteleys department store in Bayswater into homes look set to be waved through, despite strong opposition from the London Mayor

The £1 billion plans for the Grade II-listed mall were approved by Westminster Council in 2016 and later amended to provide 113 homes, 145 residential car park spaces and 50 hotel rooms.

However, the backer, Meyer Bergman, has since submitted another amendment, which seeks to swap a £6 million contribution for off-site affordable housing for 14 ‘intermediate’ affordable units – 5 per cent of the total – within the scheme.

Westminster planners have recommended the plans for approval and they will be voted on by councillors next week (Tuesday, 8 October). However, the GLA has said the scheme does not comply with the Local Plan.

The GLA said: ’As stated at pre-application stage, whilst the provision of on-site affordable housing is preferable over an off-site contribution, the offer only equates to only 5 per cent on a habitable room basis.

’It is proposed that all of the units would be provided as intermediate. This is wholly unacceptable.’

‘Intermediate’ is a definition of affordable housing covering shared ownership homes, or homes for sale or rent below market levels but above social rent.

While the housing change is the ‘key’ amendment, it also includes an uplift in homes to 153, a reduction in the depth of the basement by 8m and a reshuffle of the building’s layout.

Westminster Council’s report argues that, despite coming in well under its own policy of 35 per cent, the affordable housing contribution is ‘an improvement’ on the previous offer of a payment in lieu.

’The amount of affordable housing has been independently tested and is considered the maximum amount possible,’ the report states.

Foster + Partners beat firms including Zaha Hadid Architects and Make to win the residential-led Whiteleys overhaul in 2015.

Consent was granted in April 2016 for demolition and redevelopment of buildings behind retained façades to create a 12-storey structure.

The original scheme included 129 homes, retail space, a 42-bed hotel, a cinema, a gym, crèche, 103 residents’ car parking places and a public car park.

Permission was later granted to vary elements of the permission to 113 homes, 145 residential car park spaces and 50 hotel rooms, while relocating the public car park and reducing the size of the crèche.

A Whiteleys spokesperson said: ’Following the original planning permission Westminster City Council has confirmed it is important that affordable units are incorporated on-site at Whiteleys and at their request we have agreed to incorporate 14 affordable homes into the reconfigured scheme.

’Moreover, we have also been liaising with the GLA on this point and they have indicated that they are supportive of this change, subject to the detail of the Section 106 agreement.

’We see the affordable homes as an important part of our commitment to the whole neighbourhood alongside the major transformation of the Whiteleys Shopping Centre into a new, rejuvenated heritage asset in Queensway’.

Whiteley's department store

Whiteley’s department store

Whiteley’s department store

 

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