Housing chief: ‘Church Street regeneration is not gentrification'

Westminster Council's cabinet member for housing, Councillor Rachael Robathan, responds to last week's Extra front-page story which reported residents groups’ concerns over the lack of affordable homes in the first wave of a major council development

Friday, 16th February 2018 — By Rachael Robathan

Rachel Robathan

Councillor Rachael Robathan

THIS week marked a significant step forward in Westminster City Council’s ambitious plans to regenerate Church Street as the council’s planning committee unanimously gave the green light for the redevelopment of Luton Street and a car park in Fisherton Street.

It was with some dismay that I read last week’s Westminster Extra – February 9 – that referred to this development as a “gentrification plan”.

So it is important I address these concerns and put some myths to rest.

These schemes are bringing additional affordable homes into the area – 61 versus the 14 that are currently provided on the site.

This number is fully compliant with current policy – 35 per cent of the scheme is providing affordable homes. These homes will be for local residents and of a high quality; well-insulated and energy efficient.

The architecture and design is of an exceptional standard. The amount of social rent properties to be provided, as a part of this, is impressive.

Over 60 per cent of these homes will be available for social rent. We are truly demonstrating that we can still build affordable homes in the heart of London.

These homes will tackle the overcrowding on the local estates and give real hope that people won’t have to move away, but will be able to continue to live and work in the area.

The site at Luton Street is a former disused coal store adjoining Marylebone station which brings challenges in the remnants of industrial contamination which need to be investigated.

The front page of last week’s Westminster Extra

Yet the site will be transformed. In addition, the plans for Luton Street include:

• £3million investment into infrastructure and public and green space – which includes a new landscaped green link between Fisherton Street and Salisbury Street, to connect with the planned “green spine” in the surrounding area.

• £2.4million of improvement works to six existing retained council- owned residential blocks surrounding the Luton Street development site, funded through the scheme.

As rightly stated in your article, as one of the major sites to come forward, it will act as a catalyst for further development and improvements in the area, in particular the proposals identified in the council’s Church Street masterplan.

This framework for the area will help guide economic growth and physical development for the next 15 to 20 years, delivering real change for the community with fresh opportunities for a healthy lifestyle.

Alongside the 1,750 new homes, more than half of these affordable, the scheme is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs through construction, as well as new retail and leisure opportunities.

Far from the “community [being] priced out of the area” (Westminster Extra, February 9) the council is guaranteeing “one local move” for secure council tenants and a right of return for resident leaseholders.

And close ongoing engagement and consultation with the community has been at the heart of our approach over many years, with the Church Street Futures Group of residents and Working Groups there to ensure the voice of local residents is heard.

Councillor Rachael Robathan is Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing.

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