The Quill and the money to do up our homes

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Monday 28 March 2011 10.53am
What's the point of the council having a policy to get money from developers and then letting the developers off??

I read the story about the £19 million that should come from the Quill development.

I'm narked because when I asked the housing office (Leathermarket) about when our estate is going to get works done they said that it'd be years because they need £15 million for all their work, and my estate's at the back of the queue.

And when the council has the chance to get they cash - they don't push for it. What's going on!
Monday 28 March 2011 4.40pm
The point is that this policy was not in place when the Quill was approved by Southwark. The developers have said that it will not go ahead if the cost was applied (having not included it in their business plan, that seems reasonable).

The private sector can not and should not be forced to constantly change plans they put in place over the course of years - the council needs to set out clear and reasonable policy and then implement it consistently.

It's partly because of the affordable housing exemption that previously existed that so many student developments have gone ahead in Southwark while normal residential schemes have struggled. Now we'll see that balance corrected, perhaps to a more even development mix - or perhaps to less development in total.

All the while, if we had buildings going up on these sites we'd have jobs in construction, homes on the market for people to live in, customers for local business and council tax and rates coming in to Southwark to fund important things - like meeting the decent homes standards on all our estates.

Messing developers around with changing standards and driving S106 contributions higher is part of the reason we have so many undeveloped or underdeveloped sites in the borough.

Developers will spend their money elsewhere and we all pay the price.
Tuesday 29 March 2011 12.07am
Sorry James, but KiplingPhil is quite right to be furious with the way this was handled at planning committee. Whichever way you look at it - whether this development succeeded or failed - their decision constitutes a theft of millions in affordable housing contributions from local residents.

Strategic Policy 8, referring to student housing, was in the draft Core Strategy long before the applicant ever submitted their plans. It was designed, as James alludes to, to stop reckless schemes for luxury student housing which exploited a planning loophole whereby a student housing developer did not need to make an affordable housing contribution.

At Planning Committee, at which I spoke in support of objectors, it was clear that the main reason for a potential £18.8m was not requested was not timing (as Cabinet and the Planning Inspectorate have approved it, it can be given almost maximum weight) - but instead that there was no formal 'mechanism' yet for working out how much the developer owed.

Nick Stanton then put forward a proposal that officers be sent away to determine an acceptable amount and negotiate a contribution - as you would for a Strategy Policy, which the council have not yet, ridiculously, worked out a way of enforcing. This very simple idea to work out what the appropriate sum between £0 and £18,800,000 would be was voted down by the 4 Labour members - in breach of council policy, and in a way that helps no-one except the developers.

The idea that the contribution will scupper development on this site is not valid either. Quite the contrary. Another would-be developer (non-student) made clear in their objection that they would expect to hand over the money. The construction jobs would be secured, but we'd also have more money for affordable housing.

We shouldn't let an applicant bully the council into accepting a scheme of this kind without meeting their social housing obligations - especially a scheme that fits with none of the council's priorities. It's not as if it will even provide the affordable student housing London needs, as the S106 agreement is written in which a way that allows them to charge whatever they like for rooms, and price out KCL/Guy's students if they want.

Mark Gettleson
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Grange Ward
(and Tanner Street resident)

mark.gettleson@southwark.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/markgettleson
Tuesday 29 March 2011 7.56am
Dear Mark,

Sorry to interrupt you here but I feel compelled to point out that the Libdem had 8 years to implement such a policy yet chose to do nothing when they had control of the council.

The fact that student accommodation are popping all over the place in Cathedral and Grange ward is not a new phenomenon. I can count three under construction in the street where I live and their planning applications were submitted to the planning committee a few years back. The previous head of the planning committee, James Gurling (Libdem), did vote in favour of a few student blocks in his time. The fact that the developers where using a loophole to skirt their affordable housing obligations did not seem to matter then.

Arenít the Libdem a little bit hypocritical on that one?

Best regards
Tuesday 29 March 2011 10.37am
Thanks Tabularasa,

You're absolutely right that it didn't seem to matter then - that's because the loophole was completely legal then, and there was little that could be done to stop it.

This policy (strategic policy 8) in the new Core Strategy took many years to develop, and people like Cathedrals councillors David Noakes and Adele Morris insisted that something be done by the then Lib Dem administration to close this loophole.

It has now been approved by the planning inspectorate and Southwark's Cabinet (and will be approved by full council on 6th April). That's why it's so enfuriating, now that they finally can choose to apply the policy, to see councillors totally disregarding it.

I'd also like to add that I have no problem with affordable student housing of an appropriate design and scale, clearly linked to an institution, whose students can afford it, and that brings clear benefits to the local community. In my view, this scheme fits none of those criteria.

Mark Gettleson
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Grange Ward
(and Tanner Street resident)

mark.gettleson@southwark.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/markgettleson
Tuesday 29 March 2011 10.51am
Yes, I don't expect for a second this to be low cost student housing - but as a former student in London I'm well aware of the many students of considerable wealth that are happy to splash the cash - better we get them out of the cheaper halls if they don't need them.

These schemes have thrived in a flat market and there is good and bad to that, but students of all budgets need accommodation and the private rental market is not well suited to the needs of students. By getting a 32 week contract for a room, even at much higher prices, you may well save over a 52 week contract with deposit, agency charges, departure cleaning, fixed term utility bills and all the rest.

Whatever was in the draft doesn't seem to matter - they approved the application in November 2010 under the existing terms (for good or bad) and the the policy was formerly changed in February 2011. As far as I understand it you are quite right that the implementation formula should have been from that date - I trust the officers in question are being encouraged to get it done!
Tuesday 29 March 2011 10.55am
MarkG wrote:
I'd also like to add that I have no problem with affordable student housing of an appropriate design and scale, clearly linked to an institution, whose students can afford it, and that brings clear benefits to the local community. In my view, this scheme fits none of those criteria.

I'd be interested to know why the institution link is important?
Tuesday 29 March 2011 12.25pm
jamesup wrote:
MarkG wrote:
I'd also like to add that I have no problem with affordable student housing of an appropriate design and scale, clearly linked to an institution, whose students can afford it, and that brings clear benefits to the local community. In my view, this scheme fits none of those criteria.

I'd be interested to know why the institution link is important?

I'd be interested too. I don't think the new student housing that's going up fast on Walworth Rd has any college or university link.
Tuesday 29 March 2011 12.38pm
MarkG wrote:
I'd also like to add that I have no problem with affordable student housing of an appropriate design and scale, clearly linked to an institution, whose students can afford it, and that brings clear benefits to the local community. In my view, this scheme fits none of those criteria.

I do not think that the student accomodation being built on 130 Great Suffolk Street has a link to any institution either.

This did not prevent Cllr Nick Stanton (Libdem) from voting in favour of the scheme when the latter was re-submited following the loss of the original sponsor.

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