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Members of the Acting Committee had a meeting this evening with people from Green Issues and from DP9, the developers’ PR agents and planning ‘fixers’, respectively. It went pretty well, on the whole: they were polite and we learned some fascinating stuff.

Here are the key facts, some of which are alarming…

Just housing :: On the site behind Hawarden Road (BHL2), they are planning to just build housing. Mixed use is simply not in their brief. What’s more, there seems to be little regard to the ecological or community sustainability of the site.* On an enclosed site with limited access and no amenities! We explained some home truths about the area, and we hope they’ll feed them back… Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath just yet: it’s clear we’ve got some major work to do.
*It’s only fair to point out that the developers are ‘aiming’ for BREEAM 3 certification (see an overview here and check the planning links to the left for full guidance), which was recently made the statutory minimum.  In environmental terms, it’s a huge improvement on how things used to be done, but we could still push for a higher certification. It’s also only fair to point out that the fact that an all-housing development on BHL2 is anti-community is not entirely the developers’ fault.  Surely the Council must have briefed them on what it wants there (note, this is the same Council that told us it had no idea what the plans were and we should wait for information from the developers…).

High density :: They couldn’t give a precise figure for the area of the site, but confirmed that it is at least 1.5 hectares, and probably around 1.7 hectares. The Council’s Unitary Development Policy (UDP) says that higher-density housing should be encouraged in areas within 10 mins walk of transport hubs: that is, up to 450 “habitable rooms” (ie not including bathrooms and kitchens) per hectare. However, the London Plan (Our Ken’s plan for the whole of London) allows for up to 700 habitable rooms per hectare. The developers of BHL2 are clearly gunning for 700 – they want every last square inch. And this council will probably cave in: they’re famous among developers for how easy it is to run rings around them…

High rise :: The Plan, such as it is, is to build houses immediately behind Hawarden Road that are the same height as the terraced houses that are already there. The buildings would then step up, like a terrace, towards a ‘landmark’ building on the southern tip of the site (ie furthest away from Blackhorse Road) that would be at least 15 storeys high.

Highly congested :: It was very clear that the developers have no clue about the transport stresses in this area: they’ve obviously never been caught at rush hour trying to turn into Blackhorse road or getting a seat on the tube. They seemed sympathetic to our concerns, but bear in mind that every concession we win bites into their profits.

Affordability :: The planned homes on BHL2 will be divided as follows:

  • One third will be privately owned outright. These will probably be the choicest homes. Penthouse anybody?
  • One third will be social housing for rent. That is, a social landlord will own them and rent them out. (Hopefully at a good rate to key workers.)
  • One third will be Londonwide Initiative (LWI) shared rental. Now that’s a new and slightly worrying “innovation“. It makes ownership cheaper, housing more affordable. But at what price? The usual shared ownership scheme allows people to buy at least half of their home; they then pay rental on the bit that’s left over. In the LWI shared ownership scheme, buyers don’t pay rent on the bit they don’t own, but they buy less than half of the property. This means that they don’t have a controlling stake in their property, and it will almost certainly result in people buying flats just to invest in the equity and then move on as quickly as possible. In fact, the Metro newspaper recently did a spread on LWI shared ownership schemes, recommending them to the canny investor. Doesn’t sound as if it will do anything to make our community more sustainable…

Families :: We asked them what proportion of the development was to be reserved for family housing (ie at least three bedrooms – essential to the sustainability of this community). They’re reckoning with around 15%. At the last meeting of this residents association, residents pushed for 50%.

Road access :: The developers, like the council, are planning a loop road to service their housing estate. There will be one entrance/exit directly onto Blackhorse Road, and one entrance/exit at that little driveway alley at the foot of Hawarden Road, where it bends into Edward Road. Just take a moment to picture the gridlock.

We fed back the views of residents as collected at our last residents meeting. We can hope… and, to be fair, they’ve promised further consultation. But it is clear that we have to keep up the pressure to make sure that a genuine consultation takes place. It’s true that the developers are just ignorant of many local issues on the ground. And they have said that they are keen to know what those concerns are. But the main thing now has to be to make them care about those issues.

Next meeting :: The developers are planning a consultation in December, probably around the 15th… We’ll let you know dates and venues as soon as we hear more.

Meanwhile, please keep thinking about this, and pass your views on!


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