‘Community to be priced out of area’

Anger over ‘too few affordable homes’ in major regeneration scheme

Friday, 9th February 2018 — By William McLennan

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An artist’s impression of the new-look market area, issued last autumn

RESIDENTS’ groups are “dismayed” at the lack of affordable homes in the first wave of a major council development that will lead to years of building disruption.

Planning chiefs will next week vote on the beginning of a project that is intended to “regenerate” the Church Street area with existing estates bulldozed and 1,750 new homes built.

Fourteen council homes in Luton Street will be demolished to make way for 168 new flats – with 109 to be sold on the private market.

The development is being carried out by French construction firm Bouygues, on behalf of Westminster Council, and is due to complete in August 2020.

It is part of the Conservative leadership’s “city for all” vision, which aims to build more affordable homes and create a “greener environment”.

But it has been described by detractors as a “major gentrification plan designed to price the community out”.

The plans were designed in consultation with residents, as part of a project called the Futures Plan, and were voted on in 2013, but it is believed the council intends to block a vote on the rest of the regeneration, which is yet to be designed.

In a response to the council ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the St Marylebone Society said: “We were dismayed to see that a very high percentage of the housing on this site is now to be market housing.

“The first Church Street Futures Plan showed many more affordable units overall than currently.”

The Luton Street Regeneration Working Group said that they “object to the high proportion of market housing proposed,” adding that: “Additional affordable housing should be provided and increased in all other Church Street regeneration projects.”

One objector wrote: “It sounds like a major gentrification plan designed to price the community out of the homes and areas they’ve lived in for most, if not all, of their lives.”

Church Street ward councillor, Barbara Grahame, said that she was pleased to see the development finally moving forward after years of delays, but said she regretted they had not been able to secure more affordable housing.

She said: “Obviously we are now pushing for 50 per cent affordable housing, but when the Futures Plan was developed 35 per cent was agreed. It was a different environment then. We thought we were being very bold asking for 35 per cent.

“Time and again, we saw the council waiving the affordable housing and taking a diminished amount of money in its place.”

In promotional material, released during a public consultation on the works this summer, the council said: “Overall, the proposed redevelopment of the Luton Street site forms an important part of the wider Church Street regeneration. As one of the first major sites to come forward, it will act as a catalyst for further development and improvements in the area.”

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