Grosvenor’s £500m Old Biscuit Factory plans ‘to be rejected over lack of affordable housing’

Josh Salisbury (05 February, 2019) Housing

The scheme does not offer the 35% of affordable housing required by the council - and no social housing equivalents at all

21288An old aerial view image of Peek Frean biscuit factory in Bermondsey (section in colour)

A £500 million proposed development in Bermondsey from a property group headed by the Duke of Westminster is expected to be rejected by councillors tomorrow – because it does not provide enough affordable housing.

Grosvenor has submitted plans for the Old Biscuit Factory site on Drummond Road and adjoining former Lewisham and Southwark College campus site proposing up to 1,324  private rented flats, retail spaces and a secondary school, in buildings up to twenty-eight stories high.

However, only 27 percent of the flats are offered at ‘affordable’ rents, despite Council requirements that the site provide 35 per cent affordable housing.

Couples would need to earn around £30,000 each to afford the affordable flats on offer, states the council’s report.

The proposed scheme also does not “realistically allow” for any units to be let at social rent equivalents, suitable for the poorest households with incomes of up to £20,000.

Other reasons for recommended refusal include flats failing to provide “an exemplary quality of accommodation” to counteract the negative impact of high-rise living as well as “illogical” routes which would “exacerbate pedestrian-vehicle and vehicular conflict.”

The report, to be considered by councillors at tomorrow’s planning meeting, argues: “Benefits are not outweighed by the failure to provide the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing, the quality of some aspects of the residential accommodation, and the risk of conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians which arise from the service routes within the site.

“Despite very lengthy negotiations, it has not been possible to reach agreement on these critical issues, and therefore this report recommends that planning permission be refused.”

The £500m proposed development on the site of the former Peek Freans biscuit factory is expected to be rejected tomorrow over its lack of affordable housing

However, in its submission, Grosvenor has argued that further affordable housing could not be offered without jeopardising the viability of the scheme.

Craig McWilliam, Chief Executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, said the company was “disappointed” by the council’s report.

“Our proposals are for a neighbourhood that is accessible to the growing majority of Londoners who simply cannot afford to buy, do not qualify for social housing and want the advantages of a secure professionally managed home to rent,” he said.

He added that Grosvenor wanted the scheme to be accessible “to as broad a range of people as possible” but that it had “consistently and publicly acknowledged” the scheme could not support social housing.

“The choices communities, councils and developers face are not being aired in what is often an oppositional debate about housing,” he said.

“Public sector leaders must encourage a more honest and pragmatic discussion of solutions that help a widening, but often overlooked, number of Londoners locked out of the housing market.”

A Grosvenor spokesperson declined to comment on what the next steps would be if the proposed scheme is rejected tomorrow.

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland is part of the Grosvenor Estate, headed by Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster.

He is worth a reported £9billion, making him the world’s richest person under 30.

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