35% Campaign update – 11000 new council homes: figures show loss rather than gain

Nov 12, 2018 12:00 am

Southwark demolishing and selling off council homes faster than it’s building them –

In 2014, as part of its manifesto pledge Southwark Council’s administration announced an “ambitious but realistic plan to build 11,000 new council homes” across the borough over the next 30 years. Concerns were raised by us and in the local press that this would fail to make up for the thousands of council homes currently being lost to ongoing estate regeneration, void disposal policies and Right to Buy applications over the next 30 years.

Extract from an Oct 2014 article in the local newspaper

Council leader Peter John subsequently issued an open letter insisting that the 11,000 council homes would be over and above the existing stock count – i.e. a net increase:

Extract from Council leader Peter John’s open letter

Councillor John went one step further to pledge that the first 1500 net additional council homes would be finished by 2018:

Extract from 2014 Cabinet report

Four years on and we have taken a look at whether Councillor John has delivered on his manifesto pledge. Official statistics from the government’s live tables on local authority dwelling stock show that since the manifesto pledge in 2014 there has been a net reduction in Southwark’s council housing stock of 476 council homes.

Extract from the government’s Live Table 116

The figures aren’t saying that Southwark hasn’t built any new council homes, only that the rate at which is building has not kept up with the rate at which it is knocking them down and selling them off. The Council has or will demolish over 7,500 council homes as part of regeneration schemes, including 1200 council homes in the Heygate estate regenerationand circa 2400 on the Aylesbury estate.

In addition, it has sold 1300 council homes under the Right to Buy since 2012 and has an ongoing policy of selling every council home that becomes vacant which is valued at £300k or more.

Meanwhile, this 30th Oct 2018 Cabinet report confirms that the council has built just 262 council homes over 5 years (para 12).

The Cabinet report confirms that an additional 239 units of developer-built (S106) affordable housing have been bought by Southwark, to become council housing (para 17). One such example is Blackfriars Circus, where the Council has bought 56 homes for £10m from developer Barratt.

A problem with this method of buying council housing is that it does not actually increase the net supply of social housing – the same units would otherwise have been bought and let by a housing association anyway. Further, Southwark is denying itself the benefit of the S106 contribution, by paying for something a housing association would have paid for anyway – and, rather perversely, denying itself funds for building units that would actually increase the net supply.

It is also not clear whether all the new homes have been let at council rents. We have blogged previously about new ‘council homes’ now being let at a percentage of market rent (40%) rather than social rent (which is currently approx 20% of market rent).

In any event, 112 of these new ‘council homes’ are temporary accommodation units in hostels (Willow Walk – 75 units, Good Neighbours House – 37 units) and are let at LHA rent levels, which are more than twice current council rent levels.

Even if we do count all these new homes as council homes at council rents, the short and long term trend is clearly one of an ongoing decline rather than net increase in the number of council homes:

St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots at Betsham and Northfleet Houses

Since 2006 Team London Bridge (the local Business Improvement District) has been managing a number of green spaces in or just on the edge of our area: Northfleet & Betsham House, The Greenwood Theatre, Melior Street Garden, Gibbon’s Rent, Whites Grounds and Snowsfields Primary School to name a few. As well as lifting the aesthetic and ecological value of public space we also see this very much as a social project.

Our involvement with residential estates is a way for our businesses to connect with the local community, and by using St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots (PDR) as our gardening contractor we are helping people out of homelessness. PDR is an initiative of St Mungo’s that provides the homeless, or those at risk of becoming so, with formal horticultural training to aid them through recovery and into eventual full-time employment.

The PDR clients are led by trainers Ian, Victoria and Jeff who will often be seen tending the Northfleet and Betsham House gardens on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Please do say hello and they would love for residents to come out and help them if they wish (every month throughout the spring and summer they run a Saturday gardening workshop for residents as well as the usual Tuesday and Thursday mornings).

 In September this year we won a Gold medal and overall winner of the Business Improvement District category at the RHS London in Bloom awards – a competition where we show off all the best green spaces (including Northfleet & Betsham House) that the area has to offer.

 Thank you for the ongoing support and we’d always welcome more residential involvement and feedback. If you would to get in touch please contact Henry Johnstone at Team London Bridge henry@teamlondonbridge.co.uk

35% Campaign update – Elephant Shopping Centre – traders and campaigners step-up the fight

35 per cent

Oct 30, 2018 12:00 am

Campaigners mount legal challenge and object to insufficient temporary premises –

Elephant shopping Centre traders and local campaigners have taken the first step of a legal challenge to Southwark Council’s resolution to approve the shopping centre planning application, while also objecting to the small size of a proposed temporary facility for the traders’ relocation during the 5 years it would take to redevelop the centre.


The Public Interest Unit (PIU) of Lambeth Law Centre has written to Southwark, asking it to rescind the decision taken by the planning committee on 3 July 2018, or return the application to the committee. If the Council fails to do this an application will be made to the Planning Court to quash the decision.

The PIU is acting on behalf of a representative of the campaign groups Up the Elephant and Southwark Defend Council Housing. The campaign is supported by Southwark Law Centre and Latin Elephant. Barrister Sarah Sackman of Francis Taylor Building has agreed to represent the campaign.

The seven page pre-action letter gives two grounds for rescinding the permission. The first ground is that the planning committee was misled about public funding for the social housing in the scheme. The committee depended on an officer’s report in making its decision and this led it to believe that funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA), was secured for an increase of social rented housing, when this was not the case.

The second ground is that Southwark had not fulfilled its publIc sector equality duty (PSED) properly, neglecting the collective impact on the Latin American community across London, for whom the centre is a social and economic hub. Southwark had also not taken into account the impact on women business owners from black and ethnic minority backgrounds or on particular Latin American nationalities, such as Colombians, despite the detailed objections of Latin Elephant and Southwark Law Centre. The pre-action letter gives a deadline for reply of 24 Oct 2018 and this is still awaited.


The Mayor to respond

Aside from the legal challange, the Mayor Sadiq Khan will also be having his say, once the draft legal S106 agreement that would seal the planning approval is complete. Campaigners have written an open letter, asking him to reject the approval as it stands. Local ward councillors added their voice to the call, as did Assembly Member Sian Berry. Local Assembly Member Florence Eshalomi, on the question of traders, says “we cannot have these cultural communities being displaced.” Inside Housing reports that Sadiq Khan is keen to ensure that the development ‘delivers as much genuinely affordable housing as possible’.

A temporary new home for traders…

As well as contending with the consequences of any legal challenge or a call-in from the Mayor, developers Delancey must also provide a temporary facility for displaced independent traders, as a condition of planning approval for the shopping centre redevelopment.

Delancey have had to make another planning application to do this and propose a 2/3 storey building on the Castle Square market place, on their adjoining development Elephant One. Castle Square is on land owned by Southwark Council, but currently leased to Delancy on a peppercorn rent and a share of the revenue from the Square’s future street market. The shopping centre planning condition implies that Delancey will now be buying that land from Southwark.


The Castle Square facility would last for 5 years, until the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre development has been completed. Traders would then have the first right of refusal back into the shopping centre.

..but better is needed…

The facility is a valuable gain for the traders, won by their campaign for a fair deal. Latin Elephant and the Elephant Traders welcome the concession, but have also objected that the proposed building is too small and would have trading restrictions that would make it an impractical premises for many of the displaced businesses. Delancey’s proposals mention 33 independent traders, while the trader’s own estimate is that there is a need to provide for over 100 traders. There are also many other issues, including the level of rents and service charges, the security of tenacy arrangements, selection criteria and disability access.

Delancey have agreed to the establishment of a Traders Panel and traders want these issues, and the size of the relocation fund (currently at an insufficient £634,700) to be decided by the Panel, but trader representations on the remit and format of the Panel have gone unanswered, leaving them fearful about the make-up of the Panel and how it might deal with these issues.

Delancey is not there yet

Delancey only secured a resolution to approve their shopping centre application after three planning committee meetings. It must now get a further planning permission for the trader’s temporary facility on Castle Square, before they can undertake any shopping centre redevelopment.

We must ensure that the traders get the best possible deal, whatever happens; they need the temporary facility, but it must be better; if you would like to help achieve this, please submit an objection using our online web form.

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35% Campaign update – Ruby Tuesday

35 per cent

Ruby Tuesday

Oct 08, 2018 01:00 am

First major Old Kent Road application goes to committee –

The first of the very large planning applications lining up to take advantage of the proposed Old Kent Rd Opportunity Area goes to Southwark’s planning committee tomorrow (Tues 9 Oct). It is for a mixed-use scheme that would include 1152 homes, with 40.5% affordable housing, two-thirds of which would be social rented. A residents’ gym and sports hall and new ‘pocket park’ are also promised. The scheme dubbed ‘Ruby Triangle’ is proposed by a joint venture between A2Dominion Housing association and recently-formed developer Avanton Ltd, which is chaired by former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon.


Despite the affordable housing offer, the application has nonetheless excited much passionate opposition. The site is designated by the Mayor as a SIL – Strategic Industrial Location and the loss of industrial workspace is contrary to the local plan. The proposed development has 3 towers, one of 48 storeys, another of 40 storeys. The VitalOKR group, a coalition of residents, businesses and community groups, have objected to the loss of industrial land and impact on jobs. Thirteen businesses and a church currently occupy the Ruby Triangle site.

Among the businesses is a waste recycling facility (Southwark Metals), which has been recycling metals on the site since 1980 and a data management company that lists both Southwark Council and the GLA amongst its clients. Another business ‘Constantine Ltd’ employs 130 local people and provides fine-art logistics to clients such as the Natural History museum and the Tate. It has lodged a formal objection to the planning application, claiming that the developer has made little effort to engage about alternative premises and surrender of their lease which runs for another 10 years.

Objectors point out that, while 40% affordable housing appears generous, the threshold for affordable housing is 50% for SIL sites in the Mayor’s draft New London Plan. Local residents in the neighbouring Canal Grove Cottages fear loss of daylight, and the detrimental impact on the local environment of a scheme that is nearly four times denser than the local plan allows (2,701 habitable rooms per hectare against a maximum 700h hbr per hectare)1. Related to this, there is no information on whether any of the 1,152 dwellings proposed comply with the BRE’s minimum daylight requirements – a requirement of Southwark’s planning policy2. In its report to planning committee, Southwark’s Design Review Panel (which reviews all major developments on the Council’s behalf) raised concerns about the lack of sunlight/daylight analysis and expressed serious reservations about the architectural quality of the scheme in general, not least because a very high proportion (50%) of the new homes will be single aspect (10% north facing). The Mayor’s new London Plan says that schemes should “avoid the provision of single aspect dwellings” (Policy D4(E)).

Parking the park

The Design Review Panel said that it was “also concerned that part of the ‘green heart’ that is being proposed as a key public benefit of the scheme, falls outside the site boundary”. The site ownership boundary plan submitted by the developer shows that more than half of the proposed ‘pocket park’ is located on land that it doesn’t own. A seperate successful planning permission from the neighbouring landowner would be needed to deliver the whole park, presupposing that they actual want they to develop the land and include such a park.


The Review Panel concluded that it cannot endorse the scheme in its current form while further adding that “the panel fear that the AAP will be used to justify opportunistic and piecemeal over development of small sites, with each proposal leaving future developments to provide the public realm strategy and improvements that are required to support such high density schemes.”

This echoes objectors’ fears that developers and Southwark are getting ahead of themselves. The Opportunity Area (and accompanying area action plan) has not completed its own progress through the planning system; a public inquiry (EiP) that examines the Opportunity Area’s merits and makes recommendations for amendments is not due to be heard until the new year.

Enough affordable housing?

The 35% Campaign is always pleased to see a development that offers more affordable and social rented housing than the local plan stipulates, but where more affordable housing is required, and it is 50% under the emerging, draft London Plan, that should be delivered.

Closer inspection raises some other concerns.

There is an ambiguity over the social rented housing; the application and officer’s report refers to social rented housing, yet the GLA Stage 1 report refers to same units as ‘affordable rent’, which can be up to 80% market rent.

rt3Extract from the GLA’s stage 1 report

The GLA Stage 2 report is not available at the time of going to committee, a departure from usual practice.

The involvement of housing association A2Dominion as a development partner in the scheme also rings an alarm bell. They featured in our successful complaint to the Ombudsman about tenure switching, where affordable rent was substituted in developments where social rent had been approved, in this case the Colorama development in Blackfriars where A2Dominion acted as both developer and registered provider. A2Dominion, was also subject to a planning breach investigation from Southwark Council for its development at 166-178 Camberwell Rd, which has stood half-finished since 2015.


Profit vs affordable housing – what’s reasonable?

There is an unresolved dispute about the reasonable level of profit to be assumed in the viability assessment for the private housing. This could have a bearing on the final amount of affordable housing, to be calculated by the late viability review mechanism. Crudely, the higher the profit the less that is left for affordable housing. The developer wants 20% profit on GDV (Gross Development Value), while the Council’s independent assessors’ report argues that this is too high and that 17.5% is reasonable. This is backed up by the Council’s own viability study commissioned for the OKR AAP, which assumes a developer profit of 18% (para 4.39).


Extract from the Council’s independent viability review

In cash terms Southwark’s assessor gives £73.8m as a reasonable profit for the private housing. According to their own viability assessment, where the profits are listed as ‘miscellaneous fees’, the developer’s 20% profit target amounts to £92.21m for the private housing, providing an overall profit assumption of £101.36m, when profits for affordable housing and commercial premises are added in.


Extract from the viability assessment

Viable or not viable?

A peculiarity of the Southwark assessor’s appraisal of the viability assessment is that it concludes ‘that the proposed scheme would not be viable with a 35% affordable housing offer…, but that ‘stand back’ analysis (using evidence of local land sales with planning permission to ascertain a price per habitable room) indicates that it would be deliverable’. 3 This raises the question of how useful the viability assessment can be, if its conclusion can be discarded and an alternative (undisclosed) ‘stand back’ analysis, with a different conclusion, is depended on instead.

Similarly, the caveat that an undisclosed ‘sensitivity analysis applied in this review also shows that relatively small changes in key variables would result in a viable scheme’ illustrates the uncertainties surrounding the viability assessment for this scheme. 4

Reprovision of recycling facilities – at whose cost?

The capital has a shortage of waste recycling facilities, so the Mayor’s London Plan stipulates that any waste recycling facilities lost through redevelopment must be reprovided. The planning committee report explains that the Council has bought land in the vicinity in order to reprovide the existing waste recycling facilities (Southwark Metals), but doesn’t say whether this will be at the Council’s or the developer’s expense.


Extract from the planning committee report

The planning committee meets at Southwark Council’s offices at 160 Tooley St at 6.30pm Tues 9 Oct.


  1. See paras 221 and 222 of the planning committee report 
  2. see section 2.7 of Southwark’s Residential Design Standards SPD 
  3. See para 507 of the planning committee report 
  4. See para 507 of the planning committee report 

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