Wednesday 20th April, 3.30–7.30pm at Deptford Lounge
You won't find this on the official Deptford Southern Housing Sites website (of which the 'Frankham Street' proposals form a part). Notification has only gone to those who have submitted an objection. Pop along if you want to know more about the development, or voice your concerns (we have quite a few).
Meanwhile, following our initial post about Tidemill back in February (which commented on the paltry level of affordable housing provision provided in Sherrygreen Homes' application and questioned how the proposals might be financed) the Deptford Dame expanded on the subject. She noted that the Council's original requirement was for 37% affordable units but this number had been vastly reduced in the developer's application.
The total number of units proposed had gone up from 204 to 210, but the social rented accommodation had been slashed from 53 to 26, and shared ownership units from 25 to 8. She concluded that cutting the affordable units made way for an extra 50 private units – from 126 to 176 – so that the developer could make a 20% profit from the site. (Any less than 20% and a site becomes an "unviable" proposition for a developer).
The Dame referred to the developer's 'viability report' which had been included in the 92 documents associated with the application that were available to download from Lewisham's Planning Portal. It claimed that the site was still unviable for them but they might manage a few affordable units since the Council wanted them so much. When we looked for this document we found it had been removed from public view. There are now only 91 documents!
The Dame helpfully links to a long but shocking and illuminating Guardian article which looks at how developers use "viability" to maximise their gains and relieve themselves of any local planning or policy obligations. Viability assessments inevitably underestimate the value of the newly finished units (because figures are based on an average of current property values in the area) while vastly overestimating the costs to build (with an allowance for inflation). Viability is worked out on today's property prices, but tomorrow's costs – and often on land they have acquired at a discount. It's a scandalous abuse of a flawed planning system that has contributed to the housing crisis.
Both the Dame and this blog received an email from the Council a week after her post. She updated her post with the Council's response but did not comment on it; we did not publish the response when we received it, but here are the relevant paragraphs:
When the Council owns the land, as in this case, it can choose, quite separate from the planning process, to negotiate the sale of the land and the volume of affordable housing beyond what is required as part of the planning application.One can only conclude that in order to satisfy the developer's demand for a 20% profit, the land is being sold for less than it's worth.
We are pleased to report that, using this flexibility, we have reached a legally-binding development agreement with Family Mosaic, Mulalley and Sherrygreen Homes that will deliver significantly more affordable homes than that set out in the planning viability assessment. As a result, the proposed development of the old Tidemill school and Reginald Road will provide 37% affordable housing – the target level that was reported to Mayor and Cabinet in July 2015.
The arrangement allows our local councillor and cabinet member, Joe Dromey, to happily boast "200 new homes, 40% of which are affordable, and investment in Deptford town centre. It's a good development."
Yes, Joe, it could be a good development, but not in its present incarnation. There are still too many things wrong with this application. But is the Council so gung-ho for it to happen that it would do anything to make it so? Including stitching up its existing tenants and residents? As the Deptford Dame reported, land surrounding the Tidemill school site was "appropriated for planning purposes" last July. This included Council-owned land that was part of a designated Conservation Area. The appropriation has afforded the developer greater protection from any potential compensation claims made by those affected by the development. More on the impact of that decision in a follow-up post...
See follow-up post...