A property developer who agreed with Westminster City Council to make a payment for affordable housing is now is pleading poverty and wants to reduce to the contribution to less than half. And Westminster’s planners agree, in spite of the fact that the building is close to a Crossrail station.
In November 2013 the council agreed to a conversion from offices to housing at Eastgate House in Eastcastle Street. The council’s policy is for new developments over a certain size to provide affordable housing. In this case the applicants, TMCT Associates Limited, argued that it was not possible to provide housing on the same site and as they did not have any other property in the area and offered to pay £797,000 towards the council’s affordable housing fund.
Tonight at planning meeting councillors will be asked to agree a reduction from £797,000 to £350,000 in connection with a development near Oxford Street because the applicant says “the scheme is no longer viable”. And Westminster’s planning department agrees with the applicant despite the fact that the site is located mere minutes from the western entrance of the forthcoming Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station — a development that has been pushing local property prices through the roof.
The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) has objected to the reduced payment because of the proximity of the site to Crossrail: “We strongly object to the removal of any affordable housing contribution. We see no reason with the continuing rise of property values for the developer to remove this important affordable housing contribution. A site in this location near Crossrail is likely to increase in value.”
However, the planning officer’s report comments that while the FNA’s objection is noted the advice from the council’s own viability consultant means that “it is not considered that this objection can be sustained”.
Update 8 October 2014: Westminster Council’s website reports the decision has been “Deferred for members to see the viability report and for the applicant to consider a higher affordable housing payment”.