The 35% Campaign will be giving evidence this week at the 5-day Tribunal hearing for Southwark Council's Appeal against the Information Commissioner's ruling to disclose the Heygate financial viability figures.
We will be supporting the Information Commissioner's decision and giving evidence to show why we think it is important that the figures be disclosed. We will be showing the Tribunal evidence of the original regeneration benefits proposed, and how these have been squeezed or shelved as a result of the confidential viability assessement submitted as part of the Heygate masterplan application.
Examples include the excessive density of the development and the squeezing of London's newest park down to a privately managed landscaped strip overshadowed by 12 storey blocks:
We will be explaining how the green credentials of the scheme have been further compromised by the shelving of the proposed MUSCo 100% on-site renewable energy facility, which has been dropped by Lend Lease in favour of a less costly gas-fired boiler.
On the back of its viability poverty plea, Lend Lease also managed to secure permission for 616 new parking plots in what was supposed to be a car-free development.
More importantly we will be showing how the viability assessment justified reducing affordable housing from 35% to 25%, and was used to substitute so-called 'affordable rent' (at around 50% market) for much cheaper social rented tenure. We will also be pointing out how this contradicts Southwark's position in its fight with Boris Johnson against the introduction of affordable rent in the Borough as a whole.
We plan to refer the Tribunal to viability assessments commisioned by the Council, which support the basis of its 35% affordable housing policy at the Elephant[^1], and we will be asking Lend Lease why its viability assessment generated such significantly different results.
Finally, we will be pointing out to the Tribunal that the lack of an effective review mechanism for the viability assessment means that any improvement in viability over the scheme's 13 year development period, will end up as higher profits for Lend Lease rather than an increase in the affordable housing that the scheme was supposed to deliver.
Lend Lease claims that the public interest is best served by keeping the viability assessment secret. The information Commissioner believes - and we support him - that the public interest is much served by disclosing the document and opening it up to public scrutiny and debate.
A written question to the Council Leader on how much the Council is spending on the appeal brought the following response in November last year:
"The total estimated cost for the appeal is £57,920 plus VAT, of which about £40,250 will be funded by Lend Lease."
It seems clear to us who is driving this appeal - we think that even the modest amount spent on it by Southwark would be much better spent elsewhere.
The Tribunal hearing is open to the public and will be held at the Competition Appeals Tribunal, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place WC1A 2EB - Monday 3rd through to Friday 7th February, 10:00am - 4:30pm.
Coincidentally the planning application for the first detailed phase of the Heygate masterplan development is being heard on Tuesday evening. This is for the so-called MP1 development bordering Wansey St for 360 new homes, of which 76 are 'affordable' homes (55 shared ownership, 17 social rented and 4 affordable rent). The hearing will take place at 6.30pm on Tuesday at Southwark's Tooley street HQ.
[^1]: See this extract from the 2012 Southwark CIL Viability Report by BNP Paribas, and pg. 28 of the Jan 2010 Southwark Affordable Housing Viability Study.