In 1997, at the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, Tony Blair made his first keynote speech as Prime Minister; where he spoke of his intention to wipe out “no-hope areas, where all that is left of the high hopes of the post-war planners, is derelict concrete”.
With approximately 8,500ha of Greater London made up of local authority housing estates today, there clearly remains a huge opportunity for the Greater London Boroughs to continue to respond to this call; targeting the redevelopment of these areas with a view to delivering additional, higher-quality housing. But at what cost versus benefit ratio are existing residents, local authorities and the GLA willing to accept?
The pre-2018 London Plan stance on affordable housing was clear – the number of affordable homes should be 100% re-provided (regardless of tenure), subject to viability. Within this context however, and supported by opaque viability assessments, redevelopments were coming forward which demonstrated an increasing loss of social housing in favour of intermediate and private units. The result was public outcry, with attitudes towards estate regeneration schemes quickly turning sour. Such resentment was exemplified through the 2011 redevelopment of the Heygate and Aylesbury Estates, which became an unfortunate poster child for “social cleansing”.
Negative public feeling was further fuelled by figures released in 2016 by the GLA, which demonstrated that estate regeneration schemes to date had so far failed to meaningfully contribute to wider housing targets given the number of units required for demolition as part of the process. Further to this, said figures also revealed that, as of 2016, estate regeneration projects in London with permission but not yet started or completed, would have resulted in the loss of 7,326 social rent homes.
In 2016 Sadiq Khan was handed the keys to City Hall. Based upon his desire to tackle London’s housing crisis, he too saw the benefits of estate regeneration projects. However, within the context of the tensions which had developed and the considered need to pave the way for estate regeneration schemes that put residents and leaseholders first, in 2017 Sadiq published the “Affordable Housing and Viability SPG”. With a section on estate regeneration, this SPG made clear for the first time that, amongst other matters, any lost affordable housing must be “replaced on a like-for-like basis”, floor space for floorspace, tenure for tenure.
This was followed by the Mayor’s “Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration” SPG in 2018, which required estate regeneration projects receiving GLA grant to ballot existing residents and leaseholders on their support of the scheme. GLA grants would be withheld if the ballot result was negative. At the time of writing there have been five ballots across London – all of which have been successful. Whilst there are further ballots in the pipeline, the largest one forthcoming is that of the Cambridge Road Estate in the London Borough of Kingston, where we are providing Town Planning services.
Building on the Viability SPG, the Good Practise Guide also specifies the requirement for a like-for-like re-provision, stating that this is no longer “subject to viability”, but rather, the expectation. Viability reviews will still be required however, to justify a further affordable uplift.
This substantial shift in policy has literally ripped up the rule book that has been in place since London’s first Plan back in 2004. But with the London Plan still only in draft come June 2019, what weight would it carry?
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Estate Regeneration, London Plan, UK housing, Affordable Housing