Elephant Park – homes dumped for offices
Jun 17, 2022 12:14 pm
Southwark Council is set to roll over to Lendlease yet again in its final bid to squeeze maximum profit out of the Heygate redevelopment. The developer’s latest and last Elephant Park application will increase the density of the scheme via the back door, using the sweetener of a new health facility that is was required to provide anyway.
One of the first tasks of Southwark’s new planning committee will be to consider developer Lendlease’s controversial planning application for a new office block on the final plot of Elephant Park, H1. Plot H1 stands on what was protected metropolitan open land, on the site of the demolished Heygate estate:
The H1 application, which includes a proposal for a health hub, is a dramatic change of direction by Lendlease. Up to now, Elephant Park has been built as a housing development, with some retail, and other uses; Lendlease’s original plan was for H1 to be much the same, with three residential blocks, one of 30-storeys, two of ten-storeys, comprising about 300 homes, across 36,100sqm of floorspace:
This proposal was part of Lendlease’s successful 2013 planning permission application. Now, in 2022, it turns out that Lendlease has shoehorned the housing planned for H1 into all the other plots already built or currently under construction, leaving it with a surplus plot. Instead of building additional housing on H1, which would require a fresh planning application and might open up a can of worms about affordable housing delivery, Lendlease says it wants to build an office block on the site, which would improve ’employment capacity’. A health hub, covering a tenth of the total floorspace, is also being offered, to sweeten the proposal – but only in place of providing affordable workspace.
Lendlease benefits from rule change 1
Southwark Council has reacted favourably to Lendlease’s proposal to provide offices on the surplus plot, with local councillors saying that they are ‘generally in support’ of the application, at a pre-election hustings.
More practically Southwark Council also changed the planning rules to give the application a fair wind. We reported last September how Southwark Council has smoothed Lendlease’s path by changing the local planning rules in the Southwark Plan, to allow a ten-fold increase in ’employment floorspace’ on Elephant Park.
Lendlease’s 2013 planning permission allowed only a maximum of 5,000sqm of business space across the whole Elephant Park site of thirteen plots. Lendlease’s new application proposes ten times that amount, 49,565sqm on a single plot. This would have had no hope of being approved without a change in the planning rules. Southwark Council duly obliged and approved an ‘uplifted’ amount of 60,000sqm, when the new Southwark Plan was adopted in February 2022.
More homes in a smaller space….
Lendlease has also been careful to build all the homes it promised under its 2013 permission. Lendlease say it has built almost to the maximum floorspace allowed by the permission, delivering 2,689 homes including 25.7% affordable housing.
But these 2,689 homes must obviously have been shoehorned into fewer plots, at a greater density than originally proposed, if Lendlease now finds itself with a spare plot that can be used for an office development. Should this application succeed it will also be the second time that the density of the development has been increased. In 2019 Lendlease took advantage of a poorly drafted s106 legal agreement, to increase the original maximum homes from 2,469 to 2,689 homes.
There is also a discrepancy between what Southwark has been told about the number of homes built and the figures Lendlease have given in their 2022 half-yearly report to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Lendlease’s hy22 Lendlease Major Urban Projects report says that 3,208 homes will be delivered on Elephant Park (including Trafalgar Place’s 235 units), 284 more units than are in the planning documents and 739 more homes than originally consented:
…….fewer social rent
Lendlease remains silent on the shortfall of affordable housing, against the longstanding 35% affordable housing requirement, half of which should be social rented. Roughly calculated by unit this is a loss of about 270 affordable homes, half of which would be social rent.
The sweetener – the health hub
Lendlease appear to have won local councillors around to supporting their office block proposal by promising a health hub. Discussions about this have already taken place between Southwark Council, the NHS SE London Clinical Commissioning Group and Lendlease, and have also including GP services provider Nexus.
A health hub or facility would be very welcome and for that reason it has been a requirement for Lendlease to build it since 2013, under the current planning permission. Rather than get on and build it though, Lendlease has waited until the final plot and the final planning application to extract further gains, in the shape of an office block, several times the size of the health hub. It has had to make £1.08m health contributions along the way, but evidently considers this an acceptable cost.
Given that Lendlease were happy to build the health hub as part of a residential development before, there is no reason why it must be part of an office development now, other than it suits Lendlease. It is also not clear why councillors and Southwark think they are getting a good deal by supporting a health hub with offices, when there is already an agreement to build a health hub with homes.
Lendlease benefits from rule change 2
A further gain for Lendlease in building a health hub is that it would relieve it of the obligation of providing around 5,000sqm of affordable workspace. This has been enabled by another favourable change to the planning rules in the new Southwark Plan, to add to the change that allowed more office space. Up to August 2020 developers could provide affordable retail and affordable cultural uses instead of affordable workspace. Lendlease submitted its application in May 2021 and by the time of the final version of the Southwark Plan in February 2022 ‘public health services’ was added to the list of alternatives to affordable workspace.
So, with this addition, an obligation was turned into a choice between providing a health hub, at what we can assume will be a commercial rent, or affordable workspace at discounted rents.
Princess Street and Manor Place surgeries to go?
Southwark Council has joined with Lendlease and the NHS SE London Clinical Commissioning Group (SEL CCG) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, supporting the provision of a health hub and an indicative plan of the hub has been drafted.
One point that leaps out of the Memorandum is that the hub is intended to replace the Princess St and Manor Place GP surgeries. It says that the hub would be a ‘health centre for GP….services….to serve the population at Elephant & Castle and the existing people served by the Princess St and Manor Place GP Surgeries.’
New state-of-the-art GP facilities would be a boon to everyone at the Elephant and in Walworth. But if these facilities entail the closure of two longstanding GP surgeries then that is something that should be made plain in the planning application and the public consultation about that application. This has not happened; the only consultation has been around the planning aspects of the application, which the Memorandum calls a ‘separate and independent process’.
A consultation is promised by the SEL CCG, but it looks as if this will not be until after the planning application is decided. This is too late; the fate of the surgeries will be effectively decided too, if the application is approved. Southwark Council and the NHS are the proper authorities to deal with our health care provision, Lendlease are not, but at the moment it is Lendlease who seem to be in the driving seat, with no reference to the people who depend on Princess St and Manor Place surgeries. This planning application should only be determined after the formal consultation promised by the SEL CCG.
What has been delivered on Elephant Park?
Southwark must also clarify and confirm just exactly what housing has been delivered on Elephant Park. The development we have now looks a lot different to that approved, back in 2013 – bigger, denser, with fewer homes for sale (many were converted to Build to Rent), and with an office block in the middle, if the H1 planning application succeeds. This is not what the 2013 planning committee agreed to.
A new Overview & Scrutiny committee has just begun drawing up its scrutiny arrangements and annual work programme; the committe should put an examination of the whole Heygate regeneration and what has been delivered on Elephant Park at the top of its agenda.
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Only one in ten new homes in Southwark is social rented
Apr 12, 2022 01:00 am
Hoardings publicising the Council’s delivery of 11,000 council homes are a familiar sight around Southwark. They promote the Council’s creditable council house building programme, which it launched in 2013 and describes as the ‘most ambitious…in the country’.
The impression Southwark wants to create is that building social housing is the Council’s top priority – as it should be in a borough where only 7% of households can afford free-market housing[^1].
The reality is different. Only one in ten new homes built in Southwark since 2004 is social rented. The figure has emerged from analysis of the London Mayor’s new Planning Datahub. The Datahub documents all the homes built in London since 2004, including those built in Southwark[^2]. The Datahub analysis shows that after losses are taken into account, only 2,711 out of twenty-five thousand new homes in Southwark are social rented[^3].
Eighteen years of low social rent, but high free-market numbers
The contrast between the small number of social rent and the large number of free-market homes built is stark, as our chart below shows. The Datahub figures show that nearly 70% of all new homes are free-market (nearly 18,000 in number) against just 10.7% social rent, with the rest made up of other affordable homes[^4].
Bar chart by 35% Campaign. Source: Planning London Datahub, Residential Completion Dashboard
Lost Heygate homes
The Datahub also shows that more social rented homes were lost in 2021 than were built. Only 31 were built, while 122 were demolished, with a net loss of 91 homes. Southwark claim this is a ‘discrepancy’ but the lost units can be identified through the Datahub as being from the demolished Heygate estate[^5].
The Datahub shows the loss clearly, in percentage terms, as minus 20.4% of the total housing delivered in 2021[^6].
Southwark misses the target
Southwark has claimed that it has more than met its target to build 2,500 council homes by 2022, a pledge it made in 2013.
But this target has in fact been missed. Only 2,208 social rented homes have been built in Southwark since 2013, and this includes any council housing built. This figure is calculated from Southwark’s own Housing Facts and Figures webpage Table 8. The Mayor’s Datahub shows that over the same period 1,136 social rent homes have been lost, mainly through estate demolitions, leaving a net gain of only 1,072 social rented homes[^7].
it should be noted that these figures are from all social rented housing in the borough. It is made up of social housing on private developments, as well as any council housing. The number of council homes built will therefore be a smaller number than the number of social rented homes.
The Council plays with the figures
Southwark is only able to claim that it has fulfilled its 2013 pledge to build 2,500 council homes by 2022, by using an elastic definition if what ‘build’ actually means. For Southwark, it means the homes do not have to be completed, just started, and can also include other homes brought back into use, according to this Southwark News article.
Southwark also apparently include in the definition of council housing homes gained from private developments, through planning requirements. If this is the case then there is no real gain in social rented housing numbers, because these would have been built anyway, and at private developer’s cost.
We need less free-market housing, more social rent
The need for social rented housing has continued to rise since Southwark made its 2013 pledge to build 11,000 council homes over thirty years. The pledge is a good one, but it will probably only maintain the 2013 number of homes, not increase it. Southwark also does itself no favours by exaggerating the progress it is making towards the 11,000 council homes target. The amount of council and social housing being built in the borough is a fraction of the amount of free-market housing and unless this changes and we start getting more social housing from private developers as well as council homes, then Southwark’s housing crisis will continue.
[^1]: ‘CACI Paycheck data confirms that 93% of households in Southwark have a household income that requires social and intermediate housing’ – para 2, pg 108 Southwark Plan 2022
[^2]: The Planning London Datahub is a ‘collaborative project between all of the Planning Authorities in London’ including Southwark. It is part of the London Datastore and is a ‘new data base that includes data fed live from the boroughs…’. The Datahub’s Residential Completion Dashboard shows all housing completions for all the boroughs in London.
[^3]: 5,761 social rented homes were completed, 3,050 s/r homes were lost, leaving a 2,711 net gain for the eighteen financial years FY2004-FY2021. 25,286 homes of all tenures were completed in total, after losses are taken into account. From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.
[^4]: 17,651 free-market (69.81%), 2,711 social rent (10.72%), 339 affordable rent (1.34%), 3,572 intermediate (14.13%), 57 Discount Market Rent (0.23%), 956 Other (3.39%) – 25,286 units in total. Completed during the eighteen years FY2004-FY2021. Figures do not include non-conventional units and empty homes brought back into use. From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.
[^5]: 31 social rented homes were completed in Southwark in 2021, while 122 were demolished, all on Elephant Park Plots H2 and H3 (14/AP/3438/3439), leaving a net loss of 91 units. More social rented homes were lost than completed in FY 2004 (-140), FY2015 (-121), FY2016 (-166), FY2021 (-91). From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.
[^6]: The net gains/losses for FY2021 are 441 free-market units (98.7%), -91 social rent (-20.4%), 39 affordable rent (8.7%), intermediate 58 (13%). From an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.
[^7]: Southwark’s Table 8 gives ‘Gross’ figures; the Datahub describes the same figures as ‘Gains’. The Datahub figures for FY2019 and FY2020 vary from Southwark’s, giving total Gains for FY2013 to FY2020 of 2,170, against Southwark’s figure of 2,208 for the same period. Datahub figures from an analysis of the Residential Completion Dashboard, data filtered for Southwark.
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