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Keeping up to date with the latest news on estate regeneration in London.

NOVEMBER NEWS ROUND-UP

This month’s roundup begins with some good news - the Mayor will no longer provide funding under his affordable housing programme for homes replacing those demolished on London’s Council estates.

The Mayor’s new funding guidance issued last week, says that from now on he will only fund additional affordable homes built as part of an estate redevelopment.

This is welcome news as it may encourage estate landlords to look more closely at the benefits of refurbishment over demolition. Precisely what impact this will have on London’s 132 estates under threat of demolition remains to be seen. In last month’s roundup we highlighted the growing number of schemes avoiding applying for grant funding in order to avoid the requirement to ballot residents.

It’s also worth noting that this funding programme is one of several different programmes managed by the Mayor. The Mayor’s Housing Zone funding remains available to provide funding for estate demolitions which are located in the Mayor’s Opportunity Areas. The Mayor’s Building Council Homes for Londoners scheme also remains available to fund estate demolitions by funding replacements. For example, the Cambridge Road estate scheme is receiving £60.2M funding from the Mayor under these two programmes1.

In other news, the festive season approaches and several planning applications have been submitted for estate demolitions. Christmas is always a popular time for developers to submit controversial planning applications because feedback is limited as residents are less able to respond.

We have briefly summarised the applications below. We will be exploring them in more detail in future bulletins as we find out more.

Cressingham Gardens estate (Lambeth)

Lambeth Council (or rather its SPV - ‘Homes for Lambeth’) has applied for permission to demolish 12 family homes in two maisonette blocks on the South-east corner of the Cressingham Gardens estate.

The planning statement (prepared by Savills) explains that 20 new homes will be built of which 14 will be ‘Council level’ rent and the remaining 6 shared ownership.

There appears to be no viability assessment submitted with this scheme, despite the Mayor’s policy requirement for planning applications involving estate demolitions to be accompanied by one.2

Supporting documents for the planning application and details of how to submit objections are available on Lambeth’s planning portal here - ref:(20/02406/RG3).

Last month Lambeth approved a similar ‘kick-start’ phase of its redevelopment of the Fenwick estate. You can read more about the application on Lambeth’s planning portal here and more about the Fenwick estate regeneration on our website here.

Lambeth also approved a similar ‘kick-start’ phase for its redevelopment of Central Hill estate in November. Campaigners have now set up camp at the foot of the empty block being prepared for demolition. You can read more about it on the Brixton Buzz blog here. You can also read more about the Central Hill estate on the Estate Watch entry here.

Morris Walk estate (Greenwich)

Developer Lovell has submitted its planning application to redevelop the Morris Walk Estate in Charlton.

Demolition is already underway of the estate’s 562 existing homes. Lovell’s planning application seeks permission for 766 new homes, 177 of which at affordable rent - there won’t be a single social rented home to replace those demolished. It is unclear from the planning application documents what percentage of market rent the 177 affordable rent homes will be provided at. The tenure category in general allows rents of up to 80% market rent.

The 177 affordable rent homes will be accompanied by 76 for shared ownership, bringing the total proportion of affordable housing to 35% - well below the Mayor’s minimum requirement of 50% affordable housing on public land.

Despite the Mayor’s policy requirement that viability assessments be made public, none has been made available on Greenwich’s planning portal2.

You can read more about the Morris Walk estate here and view the planning application documents and submit a comment on Greenwich Council’s planning portal here (refs: 20/3403/R and 20/3445/R).

Cambridge Road estate (Kingston)

A planning application has also been submitted for the demolition and redevelopment of Kingston’s Cambridge Road estate.

The application, submitted by Kingston’s development partner Countryside Properties seeks approval for demolition of the estate’s 832 existing homes and their replacement by 2,170 homes of which just 33.5% affordable housing.

This is in contradiction to the Council’s own policy and Mayor’s policy which both require a minimum of 50% affordable housing on public-owned land.

The planning application says that 767 of the 2,170 new homes will be social rent but these will be predominantly smaller flats (531 of the social rented homes will be 1 or 2-beds). It says that in addition, approximately 100 new homes will be earmarked as shared equity homes for the estate’s leaseholders - depending on take up.

The application also proposes 848 new parking spaces despite Norbiton train station being located just 400m to the north of the estate.

The viability appraisal submitted with the planning application discloses some interesting information about the financing of the scheme.

Kingston Council is stumping up nearly £200M to see this scheme through. This includes:

  • £80M in leaseholder buyback costs
  • £11.2M in planning costs
  • £130M for the social rented units of which £60M grant funding.
  • £29M for the shared equity units for leaseholders

Combined with £60M funding agreed by the Mayor, that’s £250M of public money to replace a Council estate of 832 homes - more than £300k is being spent demolishing and replacing each home.

Despite it being one of the Mayor’s requirements for estate redevelopments, the application provides no cost/benefit analysis of refurbishment vs demolition. So it is impossible to say whether these public funds could be better spent exploring the environmental, social and economic benefits of refurbishment.

Another interesting point noted from the planning application is that the developer is going to pay £1.8M in carbon offset payments, because the new homes won’t be as energy efficient as the Mayor’s zero carbon planning policies require.

The planning application’s Energy Statement acknowledges that the development will result in over 55,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in the construction of the new homes alone.

You can read more about the Cambridge Road estate here and view the planning application documents on Kingston’s planning portal here (ref:20/02942).

Alternatives to demolition

Beside the shortcomings in affordable housing provision, there is a common thread throughout these four planning applications; they all fail to meet the Mayor’s requirement to explore alternatives to demolition. The requirement to explore alternative options and for the demolition of Council estates to be considered only as a last resort, is enshrined both in the Mayor’s Estate Regeneration Guidance and the new London Plan:

In addition, the new London Plan (Policy SI7 - Reducing waste and supporting the circular economy) requires planning applications to be accompanied by a Circular Economy Statement showing how circular economy principles have been applied. One of the Mayor’s circular economy principles is that refurbishment should be pursued wherever possible:

The Mayor has the power to ‘call-in’ these planning applications, so this will be a test of whether he intends his affordable housing policies and circular economy principles to be mere aspirations, or whether they should actually apply in practice.

Estate Watch Zoom meeting

November’s Estate Watch zoom meeting was well attended, with representatives from around a dozen estates under threat sharing their experiences.

The date of the next Zoom meeting is yet to be confirmed. Please email info@londontenants.org to request attendance and further details.

NB. Estate Watch meetings are exclusively for tenants and leaseholders of estates that are under threat of demolition, have managed to stave off demolition or whose estates are currently being demolished.

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraph of 5.22 of the Viability Appraisal for the Cambridge Road scheme. 

  2. The Mayor’s Affordable Housing and Viability SPG states in paragraph 2.66 requires all estate regeneration schemes to follow the Viability Tested Route(VTR). This is reiterated by Policy H8 (E) of the New London Plan 2