Southwark rips up Aylesbury Area Action Plan
May 09, 2021 10:05 am
Without consultation, Southwark Council has decided to scrap the 182-page planning document which sets the parameters for its redevelopment of the Aylesbury estate. The so-called Aylesbury Area Action Plan (AAAP) will instead be replaced by a 2-page ‘Area Vision and 5-page ‘site allocation’, as part of the New Southwark Plan.
The decision was revealed in a late background paper for the Examination in Public of the New Southwark Plan (NSP). Described by the government Inspector at the Examination in Public (EIP) as a ‘raft of policies’, the AAAP incorporated 29 policy documents, covering all aspects of the redevelopment, including housing, design, open space and the phasing of the development. It was adopted as the effective rule-book for the redevelopment of the estate in 2010, after four years of extensive public consultation, including its own separate public examination.
The implications of this are significant; while Southwark claim that all the relevant policies in the AAAP will be taken into account by the NSP, so that such things as more generous space standards, more family housing and car-parking for residents are retained, the lack of any prior notice or consultation has raised strong fears that much that was beneficial in the AAAP will not be carried across into the New Southwark Plan.
Zero Carbon Growth
Amongst the policies supporting the AAAP, policy at 3.6.1 requires the scheme to result in ‘zero carbon growth’:
“The development will be designed to result in zero carbon growth, that is, no net growth in carbon dioxide emissions despite an increase in the number of dwellings. This will require buildings which are highly energy efficient.”
While the NSP requires developers to take measures towards achieving carbon neutrality, and has targets for major developments (Policy P69), the very specific requirement that the Aylesbury achieves zero carbon growth will be lost.
Experience has shown that unless such a requirement is exact and explicit, as it is for the Aylesbury, it can be lost when complicated, large schemes are considered for planning approval and the decision is made by balancing out how well the development meets all planning requirements, not just the environmental ones.
Policy at 4.5.1 of the AAAP requires that the Aylesbury redevelopment results in no net loss of open space. Again, while the NSP has the strategic target for the borough, to retain and protect all open space, it makes no specific reference to open space requirements for the redeveloped Aylesbury.
This is a particular concern, given Southwark’s welcome new commitment to re-provide all the social housing on the new development, which could put space at a premium. The NSP also allows payments in lieu of providing open space, a get-out that is often used by developers who want to build to maximum density.
Children’s Play/Youth Space
Paragraph 4.5.2 of the AAAP says: “We will require children’s play areas to be integrated into the residential areas. About 3 hectares of children’s play space and youth space will be provided”.
The proposed New Southwark Plan makes no requirement to replace any of the children’s play and youth space.
Campaigners and residents giving evidence at the EIP also pointed out that there were three separate policies for play space and open space in the AAAP (PL5, PL6, PL7), and that they provided space well beyond that which was standard. This generous allocation of space in the AAAP reflects the estate’s design, around an extensive network of children’s and youth play spaces. Campaigners noted that this was part of the family orientation of the AAAP, and that these policies would need equal prominence in the NSP, to make sure that families remained a priority in the redevelopment.
Replacement Social Housing
In March 2019, Southwark announced in a Cabinet report an ‘important shift’ in its plans for the Aylesbury, with the ‘ambition… to see the replacement of the number of social rented homes on the footprint of the estate’. The density and number of homes on Phase 2 was therefore increased, with 400 extra units, up to about 1,250 homes in total.
The New Southwark Plan follows through on this, now saying that “it would now be appropriate to consider an increased number of homes within the land covered by the Action Area Core, replacing all the existing social homes within the footprint of the estate”.
But only 148 social rented units have been delivered so far, with a further 581 council houses under construction on the First Development Site. These leaves about 1,500 social rented units to be built, which is about half of the total remaining development, if Southwark is to replace the Aylesbury’s social rented housing (see Table 14 here).
Meantime, Notting Hill Genesis remain in possession of a planning permission that allows for a loss of social rented units, which points to either further increases in density or a deal with Notting Hill Genesis, as was done for the First Development Site, or some combination of the two.
End of service life?
The NSP described the Aylesbury estate as “characterised by large concrete slab buildings built in the mid-1960s –70s, now at the end of their service life.”
This drew criticism from residents, leading to a change of wording. Further objections during the EIP hearing, argued that the Council had submitted no evidence supporting the claim that the estate was at the end of its service life and had failed to investigate whether refurbishment could be a more viable and sustainable option. This was contrasted to Southwark’s decision to bail out Notting Hill Genesis housing, at a cost of over £200m, after the housing association failed to deliver the First Development site, evidently hit with financial viability problems.
Successful examples of the refurbishment of estates built using the same system as the Aylesbury and which might usefully be examined, can be found on the Six Acres estate in Islington and the Doddington estate in Battersea.
Long delayed delivery
Residents at the EIP also argued that the loss of the AAAP would allow Southwark to gloss over delays to the redevelopment. Southwark insisted that the monitoring provisions of the AAAP would be retained, but in any event the dismally slow pace of progress cannot be disguised.
While various community facilities have been completed, the house building programme has fallen many years behind schedule. Over 2,500 new homes should have been built by now, according to the AAAP’s timetable (Table A7.1), at an average rate of 221 homes per year; in fact, only 408 have been completed, giving a rate on only 40 homes per year.
These figures also take no account of the homes lost through demolition. When this is factored in, the situation is even worse. Southwark will have to build 2,750 homes just to get back to where we were, before demolition began. Southwark claim that this will be done by 2027/28 (see para 31 here), but they then must build 1,500 more homes to reach 4,200 homes and this will not be achieved until 2035 (Appendix 2: Sites Methodology Report pg 60 April 2021).
Campaigners cast some doubt on whether this large net gain in housing will ever be achieved, without which the huge displacement and disruption of the whole regeneration can barely be justified. The additional pressure on the housing waiting list of rehousing displaced tenants was also noted.
The time has come for a rethink….
The Aylesbury Area Action Plan (AAAP) was adopted 10 years ago and was supposed to govern the 25-year redevelopment of the estate. Action Plans are special planning policy documents for big, extensive redevelopments. They require a high level of consultation and the involvement of affected residents.
The Aylesbury AAP is a complex document, with a large evidence base and was only finalised after its own Examination in Public. There may now be good reasons to update it, not least because it comes into conflict with more recent planning policy documents.
But it cannot be right that it is simply discarded, at short notice, half way through the estate’s redevelopment, without first carrying out a proper public consultation. Southwark’s reassurances, given in the EIP, that all the key policies will be carried over to the New Southwark Plan are not good enough, particularly given the sorry history of the estate’s regeneration so far
Any proper consultation must also take into account the slow progress of the redevelopment to date and the urgent need to address the climate emergency. It should also assess the impact of the redevelopment on the residents, the majority of whom are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and what benefits, or otherwise, will fall to them – a point forcefully made by long-term residents, past and present, in the EIP.
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Action on Southwark’s empty homes
Apr 11, 2021 12:00 am
Day of action to highlight borough’s estimated 2,300 empty homes –
Manor Place Depot photoshoot
Manor Place Depot will be one of one of the next sites for a nationwide Day of Action on Empty Homes on Sat 17 April 2021. When we last looked (10 April 2021) at least 14 homes stood empty on a single street within that development. There will a Photoshoot and livestream 11am to 11:30am – click here to find out more and join event.
The Depot is a Notting Hill Genesis development, on the site of the Manor Place Baths, one of Southwark’s most characterful development sites. The baths provided laundry and bathing facilities to Walworth people for 80 years, until the demolition of the surrounding streets and the removal of the local population to the Heygate and Aylesbury estates sounded its death knell in the 1980’s.
Manor Place Depot is also a symbol of much that is wrong with ‘regeneration’ – public land sold off cheaply, for an expensive housing development (starting price £557,500 rising to £882,500) with only a small fraction social rented housing. Only 44 of the 270 units are social rented and most of this was only provided only after Notting Hill Housing, as it then was, was caught out failing to provide the right amount of social rent on another development.
Southwark–London’s empty homes hotspot
Action on Empty Homes has identified Southwark as London’s empty homes hotspot, with a 61% rise in the number of long-term empty homes – up from 1,469 to 2,358 in the year up to October 2020, topping the league for London boroughs. And most concentrated empty home areas are in the north east quarter of the borough, the site of three of Southwark’s opportunity areas. The fourth, at Canada Water, has its own concentrations of empty homes.
Number of second homes and Airbnb’s explode
As well as empty homes, Southwark has seen a massive increase in second homes – 3,630 in 2020, nearly six times the number of the previous year. But this could be matched, if not outstripped, by the number of Airbnb whole home rentals, which stood at 2,635 in November 2019. Unsurprisingly these are also concentrated in the north east quarter of the borough, another consequence of regenerations that produce overpriced housing that make for better investment opportunities than homes for local people.
Lights out on the redeveloped Heygate estate.
More empty homes than households in temporary accommodation
This is all at a time when Southwark has 14,000 households on its housing waiting list, 3,000 in temporary accommodation and plans to increase the already large number housed outside the borough.
So, when we have more empty homes than households in temporary accommodation, ACTION ON EMPTY HOMES is vital.
We must fight for a borough and a city where ordinary people can afford to live; filling empty homes won’t solve the housing crisis, but it must be part of that solution.
#RequisitionEmptyHomes #FillEmptyCouncilHomes #PrettyVacant
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Appeal against Elephant Shopping Centre development tomorrow
Mar 15, 2021 12:00 am
Challenge against High Court on 16 and 17 March. –
Campaigners to hold Rally in support
The long-awaited Court of Appeal hearing against the High Court decision to uphold the planning approval for the demolition and redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre will be held on the 16 and 17 March 2021. The hearing will be online. Permission to mount the appeal was granted to Jerry Flynn, of the 35% Campaign, who is supported by local campaigners Up the Elephant. David Wolf QC of Matrix Chambers, Sarah Sackman of Francis Taylor Building and Paul Heron of the Public Interest Law Centre represent Mr Flynn.
The planning approval was granted by Southwark Council in January 2019 to shopping centre owner and developer Delancey and the appeal follows an unsuccessful High Court challenge, when Mr Justice Dove refused to quash the planning approval, after a two-day hearing in October 2019.
While the demolition of the shopping centre has begun, the legal challenge has focused on the shortage of social rented housing in the proposed development. Delancey has increased the amount of real social rented homes from zero to 116 units under the pressure of a 3-year campaign by Up the Elephant, but it is still only a fraction of the nearly one thousand in the new development. The social housing could also be at risk, if Delancey doesn’t deliver on the “West site”, not due to be built for nearly another decade.
Campaigners also believe Southwark’s Council’s planning committee was misled as to the maximum amount of affordable housing the scheme could viably provide and that there could be at least another 42 social rented homes, with help of Mayor of London funding.
Over £8000 has been raised to support the legal challenge through a CrowdJustice appeal and the Up the Elephant campaign continues the struggle for a better deal for the many traders who have not been properly relocated.
The online rally, supporting the legal case, will be held on the morning of the appeal and will hear from Mr Flynn, traders, lawyers and trade unionists.
Homes for People, Not for profit!
9:30am, Tuesday 16th March
Join the Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 846 8677 6386
The rally can also be seen on YouTube and Facebook.
Jerry Flynn of the Up the Elephant campaign has said;
“Delancey may have already begun the demolition, but the battle for what is to be built is not over. Southwark is not getting as much social rented housing from Delancey as it should, while the need for it has become even more acute. Delancey are not building the homes and new shops that local people need. Their planning permission should be quashed and homes and shops that local people can afford built instead.”
Paul Heron, solicitor from the Public Interest Law Centre, who is representing the campaign, adds:
“We are happy that the matter will now be considered by the Court of Appeal. The case raises a number of important legal issues regarding how local councils should handle these developments. One concern is that Southwark council, and many councils like them, are failing to maximise social housing in these developments. Another concern is that councillors are failing in their duties – far too much power is being given to unelected council officials in the decision-making process. This has to stop otherwise there will be a democratic deficit in planning law”.
Tanya Murat, of Southwark Defend Council Housing, supporters of the campaign, said:
“Southwark Council should now listen to the views of its own residents instead of throwing yet more money on lawyers to prop up the mega profits of its friends in the development industry. This development wouldn’t have gone ahead without the Council’s active support. Councillors should put the needs of homeless and low paid residents above the needs of developers.”
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