Westminster Labour welcomes the positive words from the Leader of the Council that preceded the launch of the latest City Plan Revision but both the Tories track record and the small print of the proposals suggest it is more business as usual for this Conservative Council. After years of neglect and missed housing targets much more needs to be done.
Given the chronic shortage of much needed social housing the council’s decision to flip the proportion of intermediate housing and social housing in its affordable housing planning policy (from 60% social/40% intermediate to 60% intermediate/40% social) is short-sited, damaging and should not be implemented. Given the track record and priorities of the Conservative Council Labour can be clear that it would be able to deliver more intermediate housing, targeted at key workers and local residents (and focused at the lower end of intermediate income scales), that the Tories have ever delivered whilst maintaining a 60% social housing target through delivering the far higher amounts of affordable housing that Labour boroughs provide.
However Labour welcomes the stated aim of providing more homes on site (or if necessary in new land provided off-site) and for post-permission viability reviews, though there is nothing so far on reforming the viability process to provide the greater public transparency that Labour has repeatedly called for. The Council’s partial u-turn on requirements for major office developments to support housing is welcome but Labour is pushing them to go further so that large office schemes can really help the delivery of social and genuinely affordable housing. We also support collaboration with other public sector partners on the use of land, though the council’s track-record of getting results from the Conservative Government, such as on Elmfield Way, has not been promising so far. The Council should avoid selling land it owns that could be potentially be developed for housing.
As set out in our previous consultation response the Labour Group is deeply worried by the Council’s direction of travel on building height, which seems set to let rip a flood of new tall buildings. Labour will continue to argue for a ‘density first’ approach to development, focused on well-designed small to medium sized blocks rather than Tory backed mega-towers. There is also nothing here about making regeneration schemes more responsive to local people, with the Tories pushing ahead with their decision to no longer ballot residents before decisions are made about their areas.
Residents can have their say on the City Plan Revision here https://www.westminster.gov.uk/revision-westminsters-city-plan