Islington council's landmark case proves that, despite recent trends, local authorities can defend residents from unscrupulous developersby Dawn Foster / July 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
Two stories this week reveal how councils can get housing policy right—and terribly wrong.
In Islington, the council won a landmark case, blocking a planning bid because the developers refused to abide by the council’s policy of building at least 50 per cent affordable homes in developments—with “affordable” meaning the homes must cost, at most, 80 per cent of market value. The developers, First Base, were rejected twice by the local authority for ignoring this rule. Their final offer of a measly 10 per cent of the development being “affordable” was eventually blocked by the courts, who upheld Islington’s decision.
Meanwhile, across the river in Battersea, Wandsworth council voted through plans allowing the developers of the luxury Battersea Power Station revamp to cut the number of affordable homes by almost half.
It’s disheartening, but not unusual. Islington’s stubbornness in refusing to allow plans through is refreshing. Far more common is the Wandsworth scenario: developers are collared into including a meagre nod to affordable housing in their plans, then swiftly drop the proposal once building begins, claiming with wide-eyed surprise that the plans just weren’t viable.
Councils in London have been particularly poor on housing. Often, these are Labour councils, whose actions contrast to national policy which affirms commitment to housing. In another case, Haringey council voted through a controversial ‘development vehicle’ this month that essentially privatises £2bn of council housing, land and buildings. Haringey’s housing policy will now be written by developers LendLease. Many residents fear homelessness and the demolition of their flats as a result.
Elsewhere, Southwark council were rapped by Communities secretary Sajid Javid over their controversial Aylesbury Estate demolition and regeneration plans, with the local authority warned that they were not considering the human rights of the tenants they were seeking to displace, temporarily or otherwise. And neighbouring Lambeth have faced a seemingly endless slew of protests over plans to demolish homes in the Cressingham Gardens and Central Hill developments in the south of the Borough.
When challenged, councillors point to the savage cuts they’ve endured most of this decade, claiming that the need to increase value extracted from land, and partner with private contractors to build, is a result of austerity hitting their coffers.
This tends not to ring true:…