At a hearing from 10.30am this morning, Boris Johnson is set to wave through the controversial Mount Pleasant planning application after having taken the decision out of the hands of the local boroughs. The move came after Royal Mail Group, the recently privatised company behind the development, wrote to the Mayor asking him to take the decision out of the hands of the local authorities.
Whilst the Mayor could still decide to refuse permission or to delay his decision, a report posted on the GLA website indicates he is set to approve.
The local boroughs, Camden and Islington Councils, argue that the site could offer 40% affordable housing and still provide significant profits to the developers. But the plan Boris is considering only requires for 23.9% of the housing to be affordable. This means 111 fewer affordable homes than Camden and Islington had called for.
And that “affordable” housing doesn’t smell very sweet, even by that name. An article in the Guardian reveals that tenants in the 98 “affordable” homes “could be charged up to £1,170 a month for a one-bedroom flat and up to £1,690 for a two-bedroom flat.” This means a family would require an annual income of £100,000 for these properties to be considered affordable.
There are also concerns about the quality of the design, which will see 15-storey buildings tower over a predominantly low- and mid-rise area. The developer could have taken a cue from the much-heralded redevelopment at nearby Kings Cross, but instead decided to indulge in the recent glut of tall buildings inappropriate for the area.
To prove this point, the local residents group the Mount Pleasant Association have developed an alternative proposal with Create Streets (open their report here). They say they can get 8-16% more homes on the site whilst generating higher values by pursuing a traditional street-based design.
With such alternative approaches emerging, it makes sense for the Mayor to take a step back and delay his decision. This is an important site in the heart of the capital – let’s hope the Mayor takes it as an opportunity to get the best development possible for Londoners.
You can watch the hearing live from the Chamber in City Hall at 10.30 on the webcast.