Is affordable housing promise at risk as developer “deselected”?

The minutes from the last Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting contain an interesting snippet towards the end.

156 West End Lane: Stuart (representing Travis Perkins) reported that the site was marketed last year and Mace was selected as preferred developers. Mace have now been ‘deselected’ by the Council and a shortlist of developers have been asked to submit new bids by 21 November… …It was pointed out that the Council’s promise of 50% affordable housing on the site (as made by Cllr Phil Jones at the Liddell Road meeting in September) may now be in doubt. James [Earl, NDF chairman] asked to be kept informed of developments. Local councillors should also be asked for information and greater clarity about the sale process.

This matters because one of Camden’s key arguments for having so little affordable housing in its Liddell Road proposal – just four units out of 100 – was that 156 West End Lane would deliver 50% affordable housing (note that this meets the quota for the site, it doesn’t actually compensate for the lack of affordable housing on Liddell Road). This has been “promised” several times, as noted in the minutes.

Camden’s extensive Liddell Road Q&A document says “At 156 West End Lane the Council is seeking 50% affordable housing from the sale of the site to a private developer.” Words like “promise” tend not to appear in print. Of course the only way that a planning decision on one site could be made contingent on what happens on another site, is for the two sites to be treated as one development and consulted on and voted on accordingly. That has never been on the cards.

  • Theo Blackwell

    Yes frustratingly I just learnt this has just broken down.

    The position now is that the scheme upon which they based their original financial bid is unlikely to get planning consent and that a revised scheme (to reflect the comments received from the planning authority in the pre-app discussions) would result in a lower bid. We discussed the position with the agents and have agreed they will revert back to the previous highest bidders to seek revised final bids. This has now been done with a closing date for revised bids of 21st November. Travis Perkins have been advised of the position.

    Clearly the Council needs the sale contract to have completed and the agents will impress upon the purchasers the need to move quickly, and this will be reflected in the timescales for reconfirmed bids and contract negotiations as this is a challenging timetable for such a project.

    The site will deliver 50% affordable housing and we are doing the right thing to ensure that this happens and a get a good receipt for Camden taxpayers, which can then be reinvested in capital projects.

    To go over some old ground on the others site – you are rigth they aren’t linked – the reason for the disappointingly small % of affordable on Liddell Road is that we have to fund a new school and replacement businesses. If you have to deliver other social goods, then at some point the affordable requirement will be impacted because we can only afford so much. Today government only funds about 5% of the borough’s capital need so self-financing via building private homes for sale is the only way we can meet our duty to build a school (or in other projects, build council homes). This trade-off exists in other Community Investment Programme projects elsewhere in the borough, so rest assured it’s not just here. To date nobody has suggested a way to fund a school, keep all existing businesses, have 50% affordable and a development which then doesn’t massively impact on local amenity.

    In the absence of more capital from the government, the alternative here was not to develop Liddell Road and fail in our legal duty to provide school places – and fail parents and children. This was considered at length last year and debated during the election.

  • Michael

    I don’t mind what the site is used for as long as another grubby estate agent is not allowed to take it.

  • Jamie

    Good to hear from Theo that the Travis Perkins site is still on track to deliver 50% affordable (social?) housing.

    Also interesting to read the Q&A document. What “disused tunnel” “under the railway lines” is it talking about? Does anybody know?

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