Southwark Council probes  44 missing social homes

Amelia Burr (21 May, 2015) Housing Regeneration

Cabinet member for new homes says 'appropriate action' will be taken on Bermondsey Spa confusion

2611The Bermondsey Spa development in Grange Walk

Southwark Council is looking into more than 40 missing social housing units promised for a Bermondsey development, which never materialised.

In 2010 Notting Hill Housing’s planning application for the Bermondsey Spa development in Grange Walk pledged 44 homes at social rents (council rent levels) out of a total of 205 new flats.

But when the legal agreement came to be signed in 2011, the wording read as ‘Affordable Housing Units’, which under new regulations encompasses different tenures up to 80 percent of market rents.

In an email to Liberal Democrat councillor for Grange ward, Ben Johnson in March of this year, a Notting Hill Housing representative confirmed that at Bermondsey Spa “We don’t have any social rented properties here.”

Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing are now looking into how the confusion occurred.

The Aylesbury Objectors raised this case in their submission to the planning inquiry into the compulsory purchase of properties on the Walworth estate.

As Notting Hill Housing has been chosen as the developer for building thousands of new homes in the regeneration of the Aylesbury, the objectors are concerned the mix-up on Bermondsey Spa could be repeated.

Councillor Mark Williams, Southwark’s cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, told the news he is “looking into the rent levels proposed at Bermondsey Spa” and that “appropriate action” will be taken as necessary.

“We are doing all we can to tackle the housing crisis and deliver as many affordable homes for our residents as possible. On the Aylesbury Estate all of the affordable rented homes will be at social rent levels. This is what local residents want, and this is what we have secured in both the contract and the planning agreement with Notting Hill. We are looking into the rent levels proposed at Bermondsey Spa and will take appropriate action as necessary,” he said.

When the News asked what ‘appropriate action’ could be taken, we were told: “Appropriate action will be whatever we deem appropriate depending on the outcome,” and that no further comment would be made on the issue.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Adele Morris, who is a member of the planning committee said she was “quite disturbed” by the Bermondsey Spa revelations.

“The crucial issue is that the planning committee believed they were agreeing to social rents… We are given information by officers who make a recommendation and we have to have faith in what we are being told,” she said. Although she was not a member of the planning committee when that application was approved, Ms Morris says the need for “absolute clarity” around social and affordable housing is needed now more than ever.

“We’ve got a lot of big developments happening and we need to get it right for everyone. The stuff we are approving now is going to be with us for a long time,” she said.

Notting Hill Housing, which has built 1,442 homes in Southwark with another 5,489 in the pipeline, confirmed it is discussing Bermondsey Spa with the council and “looking at options.”

The Aylesbury planning inquiry has been adjourned while the Aylesbury Objectors secure new legal representation.

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