Demolition in progress on the High Road
With immense brass neck the developer of Fairgate House, 390-400 and 402-408, High Road, Wembley, HA9 has come back to Brent Council renaging on the 35% affordable student housing that enabled the application to be fast-tracked and consented. LINK LINK
They now want to reduce the affordable element to zero percent through a Deed of Variation and offer Brent Council a measly pay-off (Payment in Lieu) of just £2.2m towards affordable housing elsewhere.
Even more astonishing, council planning officers recommend that Brent Planning Committee accepts the deal at tonight's meeting.
Ironically the scheme was used as a positive example of what was possible by councillors opposed to a neighbouring scheme that offered no affordable accommodation when that was approved by just 4 votes to 3. LINK
Extract from Wembley Matters' account of that meeting:
Cllr Afzal questioned why student accommodation when there was a crying need for housing for the thousands of people on Brent's housing list. I have embedded the video of the discussion that resulted above as it rehearses many of the arguments on both sides of the debate and important for future applications.
A particularly controversial aspect of the proposal was that unlike Fairgate House, the scheme proposed no affordable student housing at all, based on a viability assessment.The developer, Regal London, claimed exceptional reasons for the lack of affordable accommodation and offered £3.95m for affordable housing elsewhere as well as £70k towards local parks.
So the Fairgate House developer is now offering less. The original 35% affordable becomes the equivalent of just 5% affordable. From the officers' report one would imagine that £2.2m would pay for loads of homes!
It is recognised that there is a London wide need for affordable student accommodation and the proposed change in the provision (to a Payment in Lieu towards traditional affordable housing) would result in the affordable provision diverging from the requirements set out in London Plan Policy H15. However, given the very significant need for low-cost rent affordable homes (Social and London Affordable Rent) and the presence of extant consents held by the Council within which additional affordable housing could be provided, it is considered that a change to a payment in lieu would result in significant planning benefits.
It is considered that there are exceptional circumstances for the PiL approach to be supported in this particular instance, as set out above. This offers greater public benefit to Brent by contributing towards addressing local and strategic housing needs for conventional Use Class C3 affordable accommodation. It is recognised that the proposed payment in lieu would represent a significant reduction when compared to the extant consent which was subject to the fast-track approach. However, the contribution would represent the maximum viable affordable contribution. The benefits of the development are considered to outweigh the harm associated with the scheme. It is recommended that members delegate authority to the Head of Planning and Development Services to enter into a Deed of Variation to secure the legal obligations set out above.
Let's see how the Planning Committee deals with this tonight.