Seventy eight homes are empty on Ebury Bridge estate after Westminster Council blunder

According to the ‘Westminster Extra’:

“New figures show 87 empty homes on the Ebury Bridge estate, Pimlico, where a massive regeneration project has been botched by the city council.

Since 2014 residents have been moving out of the estate, as Westminster Council planned to redevelop it by knocking down some houses and refurbishing others.

Last month the council decided to go back to the drawing board after it emerged that no developer would take on the project as it was not “commercially viable”.

For some time the empty flats were used for temporary accommodation, but this was stopped last summer.

“It is depressing, when you know that there are people with kids living in the streets,” said Jennifer Joseph, who lives in Westbourne House.

Late last year the council bought 24 houses in Hounslow to accommodate those on the list.

It is understood that some 4,500 households remain on the council’s priority waiting list for housing.

The empty homes were also bad news for the small businesses in Ebury Bridge Road, as the estate’s former residents were their regular customers.

Jane Buttigieg, who works at Occasions fancy dress shop, said: “The of empty flats on the estate and the prospect of residents having to live side by side with board- ed-up blocks due to the council’s mismanagement of the regeneration project. People are feeling worn down by the retailers have lost income due to the residents being moved out and there being no progression on the regeneration.”

Churchill ward Labour councillor Jason Williams said: “I am very concerned at the number of empty flats on the estate and the prospect of residents having to live side by side with boarded-up blocks due to the council’s mismanagement of the regeneration project. People are feeling worn down by the four years of stress.” He added: “I fear we are going to lose yet more members of our community as a result of this and I will stand with residents in ensuring their voice is heard loud and clear.”

Cllr Rachael Robathan, council cabinet member for housing, said: “There are currently 87 empty flats across the estate. Residents have been moving out since June 2014. Historically as flats became vacant they were used for temporary accommodation. Since last summer we have stopped putting new households in temporary accommodation on Ebury Bridge following concerns expressed by residents.”

Meanwhile, business owners, who had recently launched a campaign to “Save the Street”, have warned there are no firm plans for retailers in the new development and want confirmation they can return after the project is completed. The council described the meeting as a “listening” session. As there are currently no plans or designs, they are keen to get residents’ and local business owners’ views on their priorities for the project.
Retailers in Ebury Bridge Road have called for assurances over their future, after a meeting on Wednesday night on the estate to discuss regeneration plans.”

Posted in Churchill Ward, Council housing, Council tenants, Ebury Bridge Estate, Labour Councillors, Pimlico, Regeneration | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour calls on the Council to adopt Sadiq Khan’s new housing viability test

Westminster Labour are calling for the council to urgently adopt the recommendations of the Mayor of London’s new Homes for Londoners: Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) 2017. The Mayor’s approach requires that new housing developments which fail to provide at least 35% social or genuinely affordable housing on site, must produce publicly accessible viability information that is open to scrutiny. At present developers far too often erroneously plead commercial confidentiality and make it very difficult to challenge their dubious claims to unprofitability of schemes that subsequently generate them millions in profits.

The SPG also makes a raft of different technical recommendations that can assist the provision of new social and genuinely affordable housing.

Irrespective of what the council, Westminster Labour or others may like to see in terms of national Government reform of the viability system, Sadiq Khan’s approach provides a solution that can be implemented now. Especially given that Westminster will be required to adopt this approach in 2019 at the time of the new London Plan, the Council should get on and implement this approach to put real pressure on developers to meet their basic obligations to provide social and genuinely affordable housing.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “For too long the viability industry has been helping developers escape from their responsibilities to provide social and genuinely affordable housing. Westminster Council should urgently adopt the Mayor’s guidance in order to bring some transparency and accountability to these murky practices.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, House building, Housing, Intermediate Housing, Planning permission, Social Housing | Leave a comment

Westminster council under fire as £1 billion regeneration of Queensway may include only four ‘affordable’ homes





The ‘Evening Standard’ reports:

“The much-vaunted £1 billion regeneration of Queensway is shaping up to include almost no “affordable” homes for young Londoners or key workers.

In the latest example of a developer wanting to go against rules requiring affordable homes to be included in multimillion-pound developments, GMS Estates’ plan for an entire block next to Bayswater Tube is awating approval from Westminster council.

The developer is promising to transform a shabby street with new shops, offices, and 58 flats.

The council’s policy is that about a third of all new homes in the borough should be affordable and aimed at beleaguered first-time buyers and squeezed renters at below-market levels. But GMS Estates says that including any affordable homes at all would make its project financially unviable.

Westminster disagrees — but is asking that the developer builds four affordable homes — only about seven per cent of the total. Instead, it wants the company, which is spending £30 million on the project, to pay £282,000 into the council’s affordable housing fund.

GMS Estates says it has agreed to four affordable homes in the development and added that, since the homes will all be rented rather than sold, they will not go to absentee owners.

“With a private rented model we can be certain we will not be faced with the ‘dark flats’ that far too many new developments suffer from, and make a positive contribution to the redevelopment of Queensway.”

However, the level of affordable housing being discussed for this project flies in the face of a recent pledge by Nickie Aiken, leader of the council, to strictly enforce affordable housing quotas in order to stop Westminster becoming a “ghetto of the rich”.

Fergus Coleman, head of affordable and private sector housing at Westminster council, pointed out that to comply with council policy 16 or 17 of the flats should be affordable.

John Zamit, chairman of the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association, believes GMS Estates should be forced to include more affordable homes in its project. “They should not be allowed to get away with it,” he said.

Westminster recently gave Berkeley Homes permission to build 200 new flats at Paddington Green in W2 with only 32 designated affordable, or just 16 per cent of the total. The developer initially offered none at all, saying the scheme, an extension of its West End Gate development, would not be financially viable with cheaper homes.

The GMS Estates project is proposed at a time when massive regeneration is planned for Bayswater, currently a relatively affordable tranche of central London.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Bayswater, Council housing, Queensway, Regeneration, Westminster North | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Council neglects scores of street signs across the city

Westminster Labour Councillors are deeply disappointed by long delays from the Council and its contractors in replacing street signs across Westminster. Working with local residents Westminster Labour identified 153 places in February 2017 where street signs were either missing, damaged, in the wrong place or of poor or non-standard design.

Despite months of chasing by Labour councillors and the promise of action by Westminster, the council has failed to tackle almost all of these cases, with only a commitment to replace 10 of the signs reported missing by Labour. Council policy claims that ‘most defective sign issues would be identified for 28 day response’ yet in reality many of these cases were first reported by residents months ago and are still waiting for a response. Replacement signs that have been put up have sometimes been of poor quality, not meeting the exacting design standards that help make Westminster’s streetscape beautiful.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Council cuts have left overstretched officers unable to properly deal with the important work of looking after our streetscape. The Sir Misha Black designed red and black Westminster street signs are seen as so iconic that the council even owns the copyright for them. They are an important part of what makes Westminster beautiful and even in this age of smart phones they have a role in showing people where they are! Westminster must ensure that signs are more swiftly replaced and properly positioned to better to protect the look and feel our streets.”

Posted in Street signs | 2 Comments

Labour hit out at Harrow Road planning delays

Labour have reacted angrily to Westminster Council’s announcement that they are shelving already long delayed plans for public engagement around the Harrow Road Area Planning Framework until 2019, after completion of the new City Plan for all of Westminster.

After several years of running a local ‘Town Team’ for part of the area the Council finally committed to a process of looking at how best to support the area around Harrow Road, particularly around Maida Hill Market and Woodfield Road. After months of discussion with local organisations the start of a wider public consultation was launched at a public meeting in April. While Labour had some concerns about the process it believed it was important that the Council finally focused on supporting Harrow Road and that it should start to engage the whole community over what they wanted to see in the area.
With this significant delay to the strategic for the area plan, a number of private developers, particularly in the Woodfield Road area, may well try to push ahead with their individual building plans with no coordination and without the rigorous focus on delivering the new social and genuinely affordable housing the area needs. A successful future for the shops, restaurants and businesses on Harrow Road also requires a proper focus and investment from the Council in consultation with local residents and this important work will be further delayed.

Labour Group Leader and Westbourne Councillor said: “Westminster’s City Plan revision doesn’t seem to have stopped the Council announcing plans for other parts of our city and local residents around Harrow Road have been waiting for action for years. With developers pushing ahead with their plans there is a real risk that the Council is delaying discussing how to shut the stable door until long after the horse has bolted. Westminster needs to continue to consult residents over their plans for the future of Harrow Road and ensure that its strategy is ready to be delivered soon after the new City Plan is implemented rather than postponing the start of the process until 2019.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Harrow Road, Maida Hill Market, Queen's Park, Westbourne | Leave a comment

Still time to protect ambulance access to St Mary’s Hospital

Westminster Labour have long called for Westminster Council’s planners and the developers of the Paddington Cube to think again about the impact the Cube will have on the nearby hospital as a new access road could have an impact on the ability of ambulances to get quickly and safely into the hospital.

As highlighted in a recent article in the Evening Standard, Imperial Health Care Trust and the London Ambulance Service have written again to the Council asking them to use the ongoing discussions over the Cube’s Section 106 Agreement as an opportunity to change the plans. Labour Group leader Cllr Adam Hug has written to Westminster Council’s Director of Planning to reiterate Labour’s calls for the council to go back to the drawing board to protect ‘blue light’ access to St Mary’s Hospital.

Posted in Planning permission, St Mary's Hospital | 1 Comment

Priced out: blow for Westminster residents as luxury 200-home Paddington development given go ahead with just 32 ‘affordable’ flats

The ‘Evening Standard’ reports:

“One of Britain’s biggest property developers has been allowed to flout rules on affordable housing in central London, claiming it can’t afford to build homes for locals and first-time buyers.

Despite Westminster council’s policy that all new housing schemes should contain at least 35 per cent affordable homes, it has given Berkeley Homes permission to build 200 new flats at Paddington Green in W2 with only 32 designated affordable — just 16 per cent of the total.

The developer initially offered none at all, saying the scheme, an extension of its huge West End Gate development, would not be financially viable with cheaper homes.

The planning committee gave the go-ahead only weeks after council leader Nickie Aiken issued a stern warning to the property industry that she would not tolerate London’s “golden postcodes” becoming ghettos for the rich.

She told the London Real Estate Forum in June: “I do not want to preside over a borough where the housing market is polarised between multimillion properties for oligarchs and council-run estates, with not much in between.

“Too many times we have buckled on viability or surrendered to the idea that brutal market economics simply denies housing opportunities for most people and that is just a harsh fact of life.”

Two-bedroom flats in the sold-out first phase of West End Gate started at £850,000 and Berkeley Homes claimed the new homes would not be financially viable if any affordable properties were included in the scheme. This was queried by Westminster and the offer was upped to 16 per cent affordable, which the council’s planners accepted.

The decision has horrified local residents. The Marylebone Association lodged an official objection to the project. “On such a large development on-site affordable housing should be provided, particularly given the number of nearby public services employers — St Mary’s Hospital, the police station, City of Westminster College,” said spokesman William Hulbert.

However John Walker, Westminster’s director of planning, insisted the proposal offered other “public benefits” to the area, including developing a long-stalled building site which blighted the area, and would help increase the number of homes in the borough at a time when councils are under huge pressure to boost housebuilding.

Berkeley Homes declined to comment.

The scale of the development means London Mayor Sadiq Khan – who pronounced himself “outraged” when the Battersea Power Station Development Company recently managed to reduce the number of affordable homes on the landmark site after pleading poverty – has to give final approval to the plans. Some may view his decision as a marker of his will to take on developers over affordable housing across London.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Church Street, Council housing, Edgware Road, Paddington, Westminster City Council, Westminster North | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment