Camden Council forced into u-turn on amendment to affordable housing guidance

A barrage of objections from community groups has forced Camden Council’s planners to ditch proposals which would allow money raised from property development in south Camden to be spent elsewhere.

Road sign: Euston Road, Camden, NW1.

Proposed changes to planning guidance would have meant that payments in lieu for social housing raised from developments in south Camden could be spent north of the Euston Road.

The proposals would have meant payments in lieu for social housing raised 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 proposals were announced in February but were scrapped this month after community groups and councillors objected to the amendments to the planning guidance after a public consultation.

“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 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,” said councillor Sue Vincent of Holborn and Covent Garden ward.

But Camden Council’s planners claim the proposals were misunderstood

“The proposed wording appears to have created misunderstanding of the Council’s intentions, and it seems unlikely that a modest change would address all the concerns that have been expressed,” says the council in a new report which recommends that the proposed changes to payments in lieu should not go ahead.

However, the report indicates that the council could look again at the arrangements for social housing when they consider a revision of its planning guidance later this year.

“Concern was expressed that adopting Amendment 2 would risk assisting developers to make a payment instead of providing affordable housing, and reduce the supply of new affordable homes in Central London. If Amendment 2 does not proceed there is some risk of developers seeking the return of unspent financial contributions. These risks will be minimised by not proceeding with Amendment 2, and by reconsidering all the issues and risks as part of a full review of Camden Planning Guidance commencing in Autumn 2016.”

Objections were received from five Councillors — Julian Fulbrook (Holborn and Covent Garden, Labour), Awale Olad (Holborn and Covent Garden, Labour), Roger Robinson (St Pancras and Somers Town, Labour), Paul Tomlinson (St Pancras and Somers Town, Labour) Sue Vincent (Holborn and Covent Garden, Labour) — and nineteen organisations (community and amenity groups, tenants and residents associations and a housing association), and sixteen individuals. Only one response supported the amendment.

Report: Amendments to Camden Planning Guidance – Housing.

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