The regeneration of Canada Water has been in the news lately. This former docklands area in Southwark is the biggest regeneration scheme in the borough. There are ten sites being completed in four phases. Three sites have been completed (A,B & D), three are under construction (C, E & Quebec Way) and the remainder will come forward in one final phase. It will eventually provide a total of over 6000 new homes (ca. 18,000 new residents) together with retail and office space for 15,000 new jobs. However, very few of the new homes will be social rented if the completed schemes are anything to go by.
Sites in pink under freehold ownership of Council
Sites A&B were sold by the Council to Barratt Homes in 2011. An FOI request shows that the Council received £64m for the land and just £2.5m from its profit share (overage) agreement with Barratt. Some of the new 'affordable' homes recently completed in this phase have reported defects with serious damp issues.
The regeneration has provided a replacement library for the one demolished on Albion street, but provides no further public or transport infrastructure to support the estimated 18,000 new residents and 15,000 new workplaces - NO new schools, NO new child-care facilities, NO new GP clinic or other health-care facilities. Further, the replacement library cost £14m to build and was entirely funded by the Council without any contributions from developers.
Now demolished Rotherhithe Library & Civic Centre (left) - New library(right)
The reason for the lack of infrastructure planning is partly because the original masterplan was drawn up before the Daily Mail printworks announced it would be moving to Thurrock. The original masterplan had also been up to a much lower density and because the new tube station was completed in conjunction with sites A&B, it didn't take into account the possibility of the printworks site being included or the density being increased in general. This has led to Canada Water's new tube station being in the top 10 most overcrowded tube stations in London.
This first phase of the regeneration saw 224 residential units built by Wimpey homes. The section 106 agreement requires 52 of these to be affordable of which 40 social rented, managed by Wandle Housing Association.
Canada Water Sites A&B
The planning committee report for the planning application promised 123 social rented homes:
*Officer report for Site A planning permission (ref:09/AP/1870) *
However, when the section 106 legal agreement which sealed the permission was drawn up, there was no mention of social rented housing - only 'affordable rent' (i.e. 80% market rent):
- S106 Legal agreement for Site A*
Earlier this year we made an FOI request asking whether the Council had monitored sites A&B to ensure the development was consistent with its planning consent. It responded that the development had not been monitored since it was completed.
Former Cabinet member for Regeneration Fiona Colley was responsible for overseeing the delivery of sites A&B. She bought (and then sold) no less than two of the new-build flats on this phase off-plan[^1].
L&Q was granted permission in 2011 for the construction of 7 blocks comprising 366 residential units. Having submitted a viability assessment claiming it couldn't afford to provide the requisite 35% affordable housing, L&Q was permitted to provide just 25% affordable housing.
The Officer's report for the application justified the reduced level by claiming that at least the 25% will be a policy compliant mix, including truly social rented homes at 'target rent'.
However, the section 106 agreement signed in relation to the planning consent says that rents for the social rented units should be determined according to the HCA's formula for affordable rents (i.e. up to 80% market rent).
Furthermore, L&Q's website now describes the social housing at Quebec Quarter as 'affordable rent':
Besides having emphasised that the social rented units would be truly 'target rent' social rents, the officer's report also promised that there would be a review mechanism inserted into the section 106 agreement to capture any uplift in the property market between consent and implementation.
However, according to the Council's planning portal there has been no such viability review, despite the significant increase in property prices since the scheme was consented in 2011.
Canada Water Sites C&E
Sites C&E are the footprint of the former Decathlon sports superstore and garden centre behind it, which has now been rebranded as 'The Water Yards'. The site was purchased with extant planning permission by Shard developer Sellar in 2010 for £16m.
The extant permission was for 430 homes of which 74 would be social rented. Southwark council had stood firm on this original application by insisting that the site could support 28% affordable housing at the policy compliant tenure mix (shared ownership/social rented).
Having bought the sites for £16m in 2010, Sellar immediately started lobbying to change the planning policy parameters for the site to increase the density and reduce the affordable housing requirements.
Extract from planning committee report
3 months after signing the section 106 agreement, Sellar signed a contractual agreement with Notting Hill Housing. The agreement put the site under the new ownership of a joint venture shell company created by Sellar and Notting Hill ('PROJECT LIGHT DEVELOPMENT LIMITED'). The Land Registry title register shows the scheme as having been bought by PROJECT LIGHT DEVELOPMENT from Sellar for a staggering £48m - £32m more than the £16m Sellar paid for it 4 years prior. This clever accounting manoeuver inflates the scheme's development cost by inflating the land price, subsequently reducing the viability of the scheme and funds available for affordable housing.
Despite the planning officer's report clearly stating 'social rented', when it came to drafting the s106 agreement Notting Hill omitted the 'social' from 'social rented', consequently leaving the door open to interpretation as affordable rented. Indeed, in its press release and reports for the scheme, Notting Hill describes all rented units as 'affordable rent'.
'Public' roof garden
As part of its planning application Sellar promised that the development would provide a 'public roof garden'.
The so-called 'public roof garden' proposed by the scheme
Extract from the section 106 agreement
Sites C&E will provide 250 residential car parking spaces and 250 car parking spaces for the Decathlon store. This is 500 new car parking spaces in a development that is 100 feet away from a zone 2 tube station.
Pitiful planning contributions
Strategic Transport (£209,524.00) Education (£260,304.00) Site Specific Transport (£226,290.00)
Former Mulberry Business Park
This is the site of the former Mulberry Business Park, for which King's College was granted permission in Sep 2013 for student accommodation comprising 770 units. Having employed former deputy Council leader Kim Humphries as its planning advisor, the planning report confirms that King's submitted a financial viability assessment claiming that it couldnt provide the required 35% affordable housing and could only afford to provide 23 social rented units in total.
However, the section 106 agreement signed in relation to the planning permission says that rent levels for the 23 social rented units are to be determined by the Homes and Communities Agency's formula for 'affordable rent' (i.e. up to 80% market rent).
British Land masterplan site
Sites F & G comprising the petrol station and shopping centre, together with the former Daily Mail printworks and Surrey Quays leisure park, have not yet been granted planning consent. This huge site comprising approx 7 million sqft of development across 46 acres, is being brought forward by British Land in a joint venture with Southwark Council and is currently in the early stages of consultation. The consultation process is being managed by 'consultation experts - Soundings' (the company which undertook the consultation for the Heygate masterplan on behalf of Lend Lease). British Land is one of the UK's largest developers. It is formerly run but still partly owned by property magnate Sir John Ritblatt (father of Delancey's Jamie Ritblatt) and long-standing Tory party donor.
The following extract from the Area Action Plan confirms that sites F and G (shopping centre/petrol station) and the printworks sites are under freehold ownership of the Council.
Extract from the Canada Water Area Action Plan
As freehold owner of the entire shopping centre and printworks site, Southwark council initially said it was going to block the sale of the printworks lease to British Land, but later backed down.
Initial consultation plans say that the site will house around 4,500 new homes.
The site will also include a new campus for King's College London. King's College is being advised on the scheme by Kim Humphries - former deputy council leader. Kim lost his seat in 2010 and has since founded 'Carvil Ventures', which offers "planning advice" and "assistance in the negotiation of s106 agreements".
The initial consultation proposals have failed to say what level of affordable housing is proposed. However, in November 2014, the Council had laid out its negotiating priorities with British Land in which it says the scheme will provide a policy complaint 35% affordable housing offer. In addition the Council says that it will have an option to buy the social rented units from the developer:
Paragraph 4.11 of the heads of terms agreement says that British Land must provide the requisite 35% affordable housing, but then confusingly then goes on to talk about the Council having "the option to acquire additional [private] units [from BL], which can be available for social renting to take the scheme to an equivalent 35%"..
In any case, the latest British Land consulation documents are silent on the proposed affordable housing levels and say only that this "will be determined via the planning process".
[^1]: On 6th Jan 1999 Fiona Colley purchased flat 8, Yew House, 2 Woodlands Crescent SE16 6YH (Canada Water regeneration) off-plan for £159,000 and then sold it post-construction on 31st July 2003 for £271,000. On Sept 3rd 2003, she purchased flat 8, Rowan House, 3 Woodlands Crescent SE16 6YF (Canada Water regeneration) for £390,000 and then sold it in May 20th 2011 for £610,000.