35% Campaign – Elephant Park – planning committee misled?

Elephant Park – planning committee misled?

Mar 01, 2020 12:00 am

Lendlease fails to declare public funding for affordable housing -Developer Lendlease failed to disclose at Last week’s planning committee meeting that it was in receipt of public funding, which could have increased the amount of affordable housing at Elephant Park (aka the Heygate estate regeneration).

The meeting was called because of the large number of objections to the final phase (H7 MP5) and the lack of additional affordable housing. We explained in our previous blog how Lendlease have met their 25% affordable housing requirement, while increasing the total number of homes, but without increasing the number of affordable homes or proportion of social rent (3%).

One of the objections, from the 35% Campaign, was that “There appears to have been no effort to take advantage of any public funding”. Southwark responded by saying: “There is no obligation on Lendlease to seek public funds.” (para 282, 283 of the officer’s report)

The planning committee followed this up in their cross examination of Lendlease, who were asked directly by Cllr King whether they had considered applying for grant funding:

 See video clip of committee meeting on youtube here.

In a lengthy reply, Lendlease did not disclose that the Mayor had in fact committed to fund Elephant Park, back in September 2018.

Elephant Park is the very first entry on a list of estate regeneration projects on the Mayor’s website, which have had funding approved since July 2018.

This gives rise to a number of questions:

  1. Why did Lendlease not say that they had received funding when the question was asked?
  2. Why were the committee members not told that Lendlease has received funding in the committee report?
  3. How much money has Lendlease received from the Mayor?
  4. Why has the affordable housing offer not been improved?

We suspect that the answer to this lies in the murky world of viability; Lendlease insisted in 2013 that only 9.4% of the new homes could be viably provided as affordable.

They repeated this at the planning committee meeting last week and would no doubt argue that any money they have received from the Mayor has gone to bridging the gap between what is viable and the 25% being delivered.

Whatever the merits of this argument (and we think it has none) it still leaves open the question of why Lendlease and the officers report did not disclose the grant funding to members.

There is a similarity here to the ongoing dispute about affordable housing in the shopping centre development. Developer Delancey claims that the £11.24m it is also receiving from the Mayor is being used to increase the amount of social rented housing. We showed previously how it was going to Delancey’s bottom line:

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35% Campaign update – Elephant Park – final phase, final windfall for Lendlease

Elephant Park – final phase, final windfall for Lendlease

Feb 21, 2020 12:00 am

Last phase of Heygate regeneration set for approval with increase in number of homes but no increase in affordable. -We blogged last year about the final phase (MP5 H7) of the Heygate regeneration.

Lendlease’s application for 424 new homes (15 social rent) in this final phase is now set to be approved by the Council’s planning committee on Monday.

If approved without a viability review it will seal an increase in the number of new homes beyond that approved by Southwark’s planning committee back in 2013, without any increase in the number of affordable homes. This will result in a total of 2,689 homes (220 more than approved in 2013) of which 92 will be social rent.

 Extract from the 2013 Outline application Committee report

This windfall gives Lendlease the revenue of 220 extra homes that were not included in the original viability assessment of the scheme, which was based on 2,469 units. This allowed Lendlease to build 25% instead of 35% affordable housing and to reduce the required amount of social rented homes to next to nothing. Taking account of the 220 extra homes could have improved both the viability of the whole scheme and the affordable housing offer.

Reviewing viability

We noted in our previous blog that Southwark has neglected to carry out any viability review. Monday’s planning committee report reiterates this, stating: “The council has no mechanism to insist on a viability review” (para 129)

However, this looks to be contradicted by the terms of the Regeneration Agreement between Southwark and Lendlease, which provides a mechanism for the affordable housing mix to be reviewed on an annual basis.

If these annual reviews had been taking place it should have been reflected in higher levels of social rented housing. The fact that the tenure mix hasn’t changed suggests that they haven’t.

Grant Funding

We also noted in our previous blogpost that the 2013 planning committee anticipated that the regeneration could benefit from public funding if it became available.

 Extract from the 2013 Outline application Committee report

This was in line with the Regeneration Agreement, which also obliged the parties to seek grant funding:

Such funding has been available since 2016 when Sadiq Khan announced a £4.6bn funding programme, but despite the 2013 planning committee’s intention and the Regeneration Agreement’s obligation, Lendlease has made no funding application.

Also, despite this clear contractual obligation, Southwark nonetheless states in Monday’s committee report for the final phase“There is no obligation on Lendlease to seek public funds.” (para 283)

Given the clear obligation on Lendlease to seek grant funding, we say that until Lendlease does so Southwark should reject this final phase application.

Southwark should also reject the application unless Lendlease commits to a viability review. There are a number of reasons why this is necessary. Not only was the original viability assessment based on fewer homes than the number actually being built, but also the free-market homes are being sold for twice Lendlease’s viability assessment estimate.

Another significant change to viability since the original assessment has been Lendlease’s recent decision to let, rather than sell homes in the later phases of the scheme.

Monday’s planning committee should also take account of Policy 3.12 of the Mayor’s London Plan, which says that “The maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing should be sought .. having regard to .. individual circumstances including development viability, {and} the availability of public subsidy.

The Elephant Park development lost Southwark 1,200 council homes. This final phase is Southwark Council’s last chance to (partially) redeem itself by insisting Lendlease abides by its obligations, reviews the viability of the scheme and applies for grant funding.

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