Government ministers have been asked to relax rules which force Transport for London to prioritise commercial gain over wider social considerations when redeveloping its landholdings.
The capital’s transport agency is planing to build thousands of new homes on its land, with Mayor Sadiq Khan wanting at least half of all new properties made available to buy and rent on affordable terms.
However last summer it emerged that TfL’s ability to support the Mayor’s ambitions is limited by legislation requiring it to manage assets as if it were a for-profit business.
This means it would be unlawful for the agency to build more affordable homes on any site than local planning rules require if doing so would raise less money than could otherwise be secured from the land.
In order to enable the redevelopment of a site in Kidbrooke, which will create 400 new homes, 200 of which will be affordable, Mr Khan was forced to order the agency to create a joint venture with a commercial developer.
While this approach will allow much needed affordable homes to be built, it breaches the Mayor’s election pledge to ensure the freehold of public land is retained in order to preserve taxpayers’ longterm interests.
A report to be presented to TfL’s Finance Committee next week reveals that discussions are now underway with minsters about relaxing the requirement “to act commercially,” potentially allowing far greater numbers of low-cost homes to be built and letting TfL retain the freehold where it deems this is desirable.
Written by Graeme Craig, the agency’s Director of Commercial Development, the report warns that without such a change of rules “the extent to which TfL can facilitate delivery of higher levels of affordable hosting may be affected.”
Alongside the new homes, TfL is committed to providing new commercial and retail units and using development schemes to aid and finance improvements to the transport network, including boosting step-free access to stations which are currently inaccessible to passengers with mobility impairments.