Mayor of London puts tougher planning laws into action

September 5, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Mayor of London puts tougher planning laws into action

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has rejected plans which would have lowered the proportion of affordable housing on the site of the former New Scotland Yard building, as his tougher approach to tackling the capital’s housing crisis starts to take effect.

The site at 8-10 Broadway in Westminster was sold by the previous Mayor who then allowed planning permission to be granted for a development offering a £10m payment and only 10 affordable homes – just 4% of all units – on 27 April 2016, days before the Mayoral election. The site was home to the Met Police for half a century until the force relocated earlier this year.

The developer, BL Developments, then sought to increase the total number of homes by 27, from 268 to 295, with no increase in the number of affordable units or payment in lieu, meaning the level of affordable housing fell further still to only 3%.

Shortly after becoming Mayor, Sadiq instructed City Hall’s planners to recruit a team of viability experts to scrutinise the level of affordable housing in all planning applications referred to him. The first time City Hall has had this in house expertise. Scrutiny of the application to increase the number of homes at 8-10 Broadway found its offer of no extra affordable homes nor any payment in lieu would mean it failed to deliver the maximum amount of affordable housing viable.

Sadiq’s decision comes just a few weeks after he strongly criticised Wandsworth Council for allowing the developers of Battersea Power Station to slash the amount of affordable housing by 40%, from 636 homes to just 386 – or only 9% of the 4,239 homes across the scheme. The Mayor had no formal power to intervene under current planning regulations, but wrote to the Council to object to the decision in the strongest terms.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “A shortage of affordable homes is at the heart of the housing crisis in our city. The scheme put forward for this site is simply unacceptable: it fails to provide the maximum amount of affordable housing that could be delivered on this landmark site, and follows a previous application in which the affordable housing provision agreed by the previous Mayor was already appallingly low. It beggars belief that the initial application was approved under the previous Mayor with a paltry four per cent affordable housing, just days before the Mayoral election.

“This is a site which has only recently been transferred from public ownership and sits within one of the most expensive areas of the country. Having carefully considered the evidence available to me, I have decided to refuse permission for this amended application.

“This comes just a few weeks after the outrageous decision to cut the level of affordable housing at Battersea Power Station and I am more determined than ever to do all I can to ensure Londoners are not short-changed when it comes to developers doing their bit to help tackle London’s housing crisis. The government now needs to show it is committed to this too and devolve the powers to help me stop developers getting away with unacceptably low levels of affordable housing.”

Earlier this year the Mayor published his Supplementary Planning Guidance on viability and affordable housing, which said that developers offering at least 35 per cent affordable housing without public subsidy could expect a quicker, more certain route through the planning system.

The Mayor’s decision is part of wider efforts to tackle London’s housing crisis. Earlier this week he wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, urging the government to allow increased council tax charges on empty properties in central London.

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