Tuesday 29 March 2011 1.07am
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.
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.
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Grange Ward
(and Tanner Street