£12 billion Earl’s Court scheme value hidden to avoid affordable housing

Originally posted on West Ken & Gibbs Green - The People's Estates:

EC ariel

After nearly two years of fighting to get the viability assessment of the Earl’s Court scheme, Capco and Kensington & Chelsea finally gave in to the Information Commissioner’s demand that the report be released. The Councils and the developer had good reason to keep the assessment produced by DVS secret. The scheme is not worth £8 billion, but £12 billion – and that was in September 2012. So imagine what it’s worth now!

Amazingly the DVS review showed that the scheme was not viable on the basis of Capco’s assumptions, a reason in itself not to approve the scheme. But it was also critical of Capco’s reluctance to co-operate with the assessment. Throughout their review, DVS questioned the calculations and methodologies that were used to justify 11% of so called ‘affordable’ housing.

In their defence, Capco claims that “the DVS had full access to all relevant Capco information”. But…

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Labour Group responds to Mayoral Development Corporation proposal

Since 2011, the Mayor has been able to designate certain areas of London as Mayoral development areas, with issues such as infrastructure, regeneration, and planning controlled not by the local authority but by a Mayoral Development Corporation. The power has been used sparingly, with the only one so far established covering the Olympic Park area.

Now, Mayor Johnson proposes the creation of a second MDC, this time for the Old Oak and Park Royal area.

Currently a huge stretch of railway land and the huge (and hugely important) Park Royal industrial estate, the intersection of High Speed 2 and Crossrail 1 will turn this often-over looked part of west London into the focus for London’s biggest regeneration area. The Mayor expects that, in Old Oak Common alone, there is capacity for up to 24,000 new homes and 55,000 new jobs.

The Assembly Planning Committee, which I chair, held a session on Old Oak Common and Park Royal, including on the Mayor’s vision for it and the MDC proposal, this summer. You can access the transcript here.

The expected boundary of the proposed MDC.

The expected boundary of the proposed MDC.

As planning spokesperson for the London Assembly Labour group, I broadly welcomed the creation of an MDC for Old Oak and Park Royal. We believe a Development Corporation could provide the strategic direction and authority necessary to ensure it is delivered successfully for both new and existing communities. However, we harbour concerns about the way the MDC will be structured and the policies it will implement. The MDC must maintain a strong position for the affected local authorities, engage in a genuinely consultative process with local communities, and result in a Local Plan and planning decisions which reflect priorities on issues such as industrial land and affordable housing.

You can read the Labour Group response to MDC proposal for Old Oak and Park Royal.

We’ve submitted our response, but our fight isn’t over. We want to make sure that the MDC is best positioned to create the sort of regeneration that satisfies London’s need for housing and jobs whilst addressing the priorities of existing local communities.

The Assembly will have a chance to vote on the MDC proposal in October.

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Councils can solve the housing crisis

If we’re going to get the homes we need, Councils must be a part of the solution. But the cap on Council borrowing is proving a barrier.

That’s why I co-signed a letter, published today in the Guardian, calling for lifting the remaining cap on Council borrowing for housing.


London’s housing crisis is deepening by the day (Report, 17 September). Average house prices now stand at £500,000. Private rents are double the national average. Council housing is being depleted as a third of all right-to-buy sales are in London. Yet last year house building in the capital fell to its lowest level in a decade. Ed Miliband’s pledge that the next Labour government will build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 has been welcomed across the country, and especially in London. But in order to achieve it we need local authorities to be freed to deliver a new generation of council housing. Labour councils across London are building new council homes for the first time in decades. But they could do so much more if the arbitrary cap on borrowing to build was lifted. This would allow them to invest in housing – borrowing prudentially, as they can already do for other purposes. Borrowing to build homes pays for itself in the long term via rents. Indeed, no other EU country counts public borrowing for housing towards national debt.

In 1979 councils were building a third of all the new homes being built annually. When the Thatcher government choked off council house building, the private sector never filled the gap. History tells us that the private sector alone cannot deliver the homes we need to solve our housing crisis. Michael Lyons will shortly publish his independent review of housing policy as part of Labour’s policy review. We hope that he will recommend lifting the remaining cap on council borrowing for housing and that the Labour leadership includes a commitment to lift this cap in the next manifesto.
Tom Copley (London assembly member, Labour), Nicky Gavron AM(London assembly, Labour, Planning), Cllr James Murray (London borough of Islington), Cllr Jasbir Anand (LB Ealing), Cllr Damien Egan(LB Lewisham), Cllr Julian Fulbrook (LB Camden), Cllr Phil Glanville(LB Hackney), Cllr Ahmet Oykener (LB Enfield), Cllr Alan Strickland(LB Haringay), Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth), Andrew Dismore AM (Hendon), Lee Godfrey (Kingston and Surbiton), Rupa Huq(Ealing Central and Acton), Sarah Jones (Croydon Central), Cllr Andrew Judge (Wimbledon), Chris Summers (Uxbridge and South Ruislip),Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green)

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Boris needs to be successful on permitted development this time round

The Government’s plans on permitted development rights are a threat to London and its economic recovery. Allowing property owners to convert offices, light industrial, and warehouses into flats without the need for planning permission is a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs. It results in the wrong types of and sub-standard housing in the wrong locations, and without any contribution of affordable housing or Section 106.

Boris has promised to stand up for London. But he did that before, and he didn’t get the best deal possible.

That’s why earlier today, the Mayor came under cross-party fire for failing to successfully use his influence to block Government plans which threaten London’s employment space. In a series of exchanges following my question at this month’s Mayor’s Question time, the Mayor agreed to write to the Government and pledged that “we will secure changes” to the proposal which would mean offices, light industrial, and warehousing could be converted into housing without any need for planning permission.

There was wide agreement amongst both Labour and Tory AMs, but Boris seemed utterly unaware of the threat posed by the proposal.

The Government proposals would allow property owners to convert employment spaces – offices, light industrial facilities, and warehouses – into flats overnight without the need for planning permission. The policy was originally introduced for offices on a temporary basis last year but is now set to be made permanent, having already resulted in the loss of half a million square metres of office floorspace in London, most of which was occupied by businesses and organisations.

A national survey by RICS earlier this summer found the permitted development contributed to the largest reduction of commercial space since records were kept. Now the Government proposes making the policy permanent, removing exemptions that were granted under the temporary measure, and extending permitted development rights to any light industrial and warehousing use.

This is a reckless measure which sacrifices jobs. It results in the wrong types of and sub-standard housing in the wrong locations, and without any contribution of affordable housing or Section 106.

There is a huge amount at stake for London. Permitted development drives up the land value of employment space – even where property owners don’t convert, they will use it as a reason to drive up rents, forcing businesses to close or to leave London.

The Mayor boasted about his influence in Westminster during the last campaign but when the Government decided to allow the permitted development for offices to residential he only managed some exemptions for a few parts of London. Now, just over a year later, they’re taking even those away. Now that he’s a Tory candidate, I hope Boris has more influence because he certainly failed to get the best deal for London as Mayor.

The Assembly’s Labour group will be responding to the consultation, which closes on 26 September. I will post our response here.

In the meantime, you can watch the exchange between me and Boris here.

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Londoners’ chance to speak out on ticket office closures

Don’t miss out on your chance to help stop the Mayor of London’s proposal to close all the Capital’s tube ticket offices. If implemented the decision would not only mean the loss of every one of London’s ticket offices but would also see 900 station staff jobs disappear.

A consultation has been launched today asking Londoners for their views.

Boris Johnson’s plans to axe tube ticket offices and their staff despite the fact that last year almost 40% of ticket sales were conducted by staffed station counters. Opponents of the cuts argue that, even without ticket offices, staff should be retained to deal with more complex queries such as refunds and to help people unfamiliar with the tube network or less comfortable using ticket machines, for example tourists.


During his election campaign in 2008 Johnson pledged not to close any front counters promising to ensure there “is always a manned ticket office at every station”.

The consultation, which launches on Friday (15th) and runs for 6 weeks, is run by London TravelWatch and can be completed at www.Londontravelwatch.org.uk.

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Standing up for car parking standards in London

Earlier this year I reacted with dismay to the then-planning minister Nick Boles letter to the Mayor demanding that London get rid of strategic car parking standards. These standards, which set a maximum limit for the number of spaces per residential unit depending on local circumstances, have been instrumental to encouraging sustainable development across the capital. They are one of the reasons London has had the quickest shift out of the car and onto bikes, buses, and feet of any city in the world.

resi car parking london

That’s why I am speaking on behalf of a motion this morning at the London Assembly, rejecting the former minister’s assertions and calling on London to maintain its right to set standards.

You can watch the session live from 10am (though the motion won’t be raised until after 11.30am) here.

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Old Oak Common and Park Royal

The convergence of HS2 and Crossrail on a core area larger than Canary Wharf, Old Oak Common offers a unique and exciting opportunity to build a new piece of city on the edge of central London. But is the Mayor’s vision the best we can do?

At this morning’s meeting the Planning Committee, which I chair, will be examining Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to use a Mayoral Development Corporation to take over statutory powers relating to infrastructure, regeneration, land acquisitions and planning from the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham.

old oak common

The following Greater London Authority staff will give a presentation on the current London Plan policy for Old Oak and Park Royal and the Mayor’s MDC proposal.

Stewart Murray, Assistant Director – Planning

Colin Wilson, Senior Manager – Planning Decisions

Martin Scholar, Strategic Planning Manager – Planning Frameworks

Michael Mulhern, Principal Project Officer – Regeneration

The Committee will question the following guests about the future of Old Oak and Park Royal.

Pat Hayes, Executive Director Regeneration and Housing, LB Ealing

Amanda Souter, Chair of Wells House Road Residents Association

Mike Cummings, Regional Director, SEGRO

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, 1 July from 10.00am in The Chamber at City Hall (The Queen’s Walk, London SE1). You can also watch proceedings live from here.

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