Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has directed Conservative controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Council to reject a planning application in a row with the Council over the number of affordable homes to be included in the scheme.
The original application for the redevelopment of the Prestolite Factory site in East Acton by the Genesis Housing Group made provision for 148 affordable rented homes – 33 per cent of the total development. However according to the Mayor’s office the number of affordable rented properties in the scheme was reduced to 65 “following Council intervention”. Funding for the reduced scheme was refused by the Housing Corporation which lead to a further revision of the scheme and a total of 92 low-rent units.
However the second revision has proven too low to satisfy the Mayor whose London Plan calls for one third of all properties in new housing developments to be ‘affordable’ and has resulted in Mr Livingstone using his powers to direct the Council to to refuse the entire application.
Announcing his decision the Mayor said it was “completely unacceptable for any Council to turn down the offer of desperately needed affordable rented homes – especially when this contravenes planning policies.” Mr Livingstone also warned of “a grave danger that all over London borough councils are tearing up previous affordable housing policies and driving down the supply of affordable new accommodation”.
“Over two thirds of London households who need new homes can only afford to do so through the social rented sector. That is why the London Plan – and indeed the Council’s own statutory plan – requires that 35 per cent of new housing should be for low rent affordable homes, with 15 per cent for higher cost shared ownership. This is especially important in places like Hammersmith and Fulham where high house prices mean shared ownership is out of reach for people on lower incomes.”
The Mayor’s decision to block the application has been backed by local Labour MP Andy Slaughter who branded the Council’s conduct “both improper and immoral”. Highlighting local shortages of affordable housing Mr Slaughter told MayorWatch that housing issues represented “perhaps 35-40%” of the casework he took up on behalf of constituents and that these cases are “almost exclusively related to overcrowding or homelessness”.
The MP claimed the supply of affordable housing in his constituency was “being depleted by council house sales and by housing associations like Peabody Trust selling off stock”. Citing Hammersmith and Fulham’s estimated 1700 families in temporary accommodation and 8400 on the waiting list Mr Slaughter said the “only realistic prospect for those in housing need is affordable rented housing.”
Despite the Mayor’s direction to refuse the development may still proceed. The Mayor has said he would be happy to withdraw his direction “if a scheme with more affordable rented housing comes back. This is obviously totally practical on this site as that was exactly what the original proposal from the Housing Association involved.”
The council had not responded to our request for a comment by the of publication.