Planning guidance revision threatens new social housing in south Camden

Community groups have condemned plans by Camden Council which would mean new social housing gained from property development in central London would not be built, but instead be replaced by cash payments and spent elsewhere.

Map of south Camden in central London.

Community groups in Bloomsbury, Holborn & Covent Garden, and Kings Cross wards have condemned proposed changes to planning guidance. Image: Open Street Map.

The new proposals are contained in a report drawn up by Frances Wheat the assistant director for regeneration and planning and submitted to Councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning, to agree the changes and authorise a public consultation.

Jones authorised the amendments in February and final approval of the document will be sought in April after the public consultation has closed.

“If this seemingly small revision is adopted, it will prove catastrophic to the south of Camden,” said Peter Wright Chair of the Holborn District Management Committee in an email to community groups.

The amendments mean that a requirement for social housing through s106 agreements from construction projects in the three southern wards  — Bloomsbury, Holborn & Covent Garden, and Kings Cross — could be transferred to fund social housing north of the Euston Road.

The proposed amendments also undermine existing planning policies for creating and sustaining mixed communities. About 36,000 people live in Camden south of the Euston Road, most of them rent their homes and around half the renters are in social housing.

“Both Camden’s Plan and The Mayor’s London Plan have planning policies that make clear that mixed communities and more affordable housing should be provided within the Central Area of London and that includes that area of Camden south of the Euston Road,” says Jim Monahan of Covent Garden Community Association.

“To promote policies that undermine this overriding aim would be most deplorable.

“The Council will seriously undermine its negotiating position for affordable housing in commercial developments south of the Euston Road, if developers can cite the possibility of using payment in lieu anywhere within the Borough,” he says in a letter to the council.

Fitzrovia’s community groups the Charlotte Street Association and the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association have also condemned the proposals and have sent written comments to Camden urging the amendments be scrapped.

Councillor Sue Vincent of Holborn & Covent Garden ward wrote to Jones, her Labour colleague, criticising the amendments to allow money generated from local property development to be spent elsewhere.

In an email seen by Fitzrovia News Cllr Vincent writes:

“The changes proposed in Camden’s Planning Guidance will ensure that affordable housing will no longer be built in the south of the Euston Road. You are helping this government do their job of cleansing the centre of London from ordinary people and anyone who doesn’t earn a bankers wage to afford private rental or purchase. This is not acceptable to me, or my constituents whose families contribute to the economic cultural and social vitality of central London.”

She also asks Jones what evidence supports this change of local policy and requests copies of background papers to substantiate the amendments.

Vincent, a former deputy leader of Camden Council, goes on to describe how those living in the south of the borough have to put up with construction work and the disturbance it creates, yet are being denied important future benefits.

“Our residents in the south have the most development of anywhere in Camden — they have the resultant deterioration of their quality of life, noise nuisance, air pollution — and have the shortest life expectancy in the whole of the borough.”

“This proposed policy takes away any hope for their families to eventually live close enough to look after their parents/grandparents and likewise, in return, for children to have their grandparents nearby,” she said.

Fitzrovia News understands from speaking to community groups that Camden’s planners for a long time have lacked a determination to secure housing in the south of the borough. The view of community activists is that the council’s officers see the area south of the Euston Road as a commercial area and ignore the needs of tens of thousands of residents living here.

The council even has a document describing Camden as “a diverse borough extending from business and commercial areas in the south and central London, through town centres in Camden and Kilburn, to residential areas to the north” (our emphasis).

The view of many activists is that Camden’s planning department is actually dysfunctional and the current proposals merely confirm this.

Public comments should be emailed to planningpolicy@camden.gov.uk and must be received on or before 7 April 2016.

Cabinet member decision: Amendments to Camden Planning Guidance – Housing.

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