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13/02/2019

Southwark rejects Grosvenor biscuit building scheme on affordability

Words: Huw Morris

The £500 million redevelopment of a former biscuit factory into a build-to-rent scheme has been rejected by the London Borough of Southwark because of its lack of affordable housing.

Grosvenor’s scheme near Bermondsey Tube Station would have provided 1,342 build-to-rent properties on the 6.2-hectare site of the former Peek Freans biscuit factory, which adjoins the old Lewisham and Southwark College campus.

The scheme, one of London’s largest build-to-rent developments, also comprised office, retail and leisure space and a 600-place secondary school in buildings ranging from four to 28 storeys in height.

The developer’s offer of 27.5 per cent of the homes at below market rents was rejected by Southwark for failing to meet its target of 35 per cent affordable homes and the project would not provide any significant number of social rent or London Living rent homes. The council’s viability adviser, GVA, estimated that it should be offering 32 per cent affordable housing.

Planners recommended refusal because the development failed to provide the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing. The affordable homes on offer would be out of reach of those in greatest housing need. The proposal did not comply with local, mayoral or London Plan policies, they decided, while the scheme did not “provide an exemplary quality of accommodation for its future residents to combat the potential negative impacts of high-density living”.

Grosvenor chief executive Craig McWilliam said he was “obviously disappointed” by the committee’s decision. “Our proposals are for a neighbourhood accessible to the growing majority of Londoners who simply cannot afford to buy, do not qualify for social housing and want the many advantages of a secure, professionally managed home to rent.

"This includes Southwark’s many health, education, public order and fire service workers who can, through our proposals, afford to live close to where they work.

“We have talked openly to many in Southwark on the opportunities build-to-rent brings, but also the difficult choices, often between competing benefits, that must be made to deliver these new homes. We have also consistently acknowledged and sought to explain why the economics of our proposals mean they cannot support social housing.”

Image credit | Shutterstock

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