Elephant Park MP5 - the final chapter

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Developer Lendlease proposes building 2,689 homes on the completed redevelopment of the Heygate estate - 220 more homes than were originally approved back in 2013, but with twenty-nine fewer affordable homes. Just 92 of the affordable homes in the redevelopment,now known as Elephant Park, will be social rent.

The proposal is made in the detailed planning application for the last plot of the scheme (MP5/H7), where Lendlease proposes building 424 new homes, including 72 affordable units (37 shared-ownership, 20 affordable rent and 15 social rent). There is no proposal for a viability review of the scheme, to maximise the amount of affordable housing.

The number of social rented units in the development has crept up from 71 units since 2013 (plus a further eight on Trafalgar Place (Heygate Phase 1)). The overall affordable housing is broken down into 92 social rented, 167 affordable rent and 282 shared ownership.

Figures for the total and affordable units proposed in planning documents for MP5, the final phase of the development

Lendlease's application for MP5/H7 anticipates that the completed development will have 2,689 homes, 220 more homes than the numbers agreed by the planning committee in January 2013, which agreed a development of between 2,300 (min) and 2,469 homes (max).

Development description from planning committee report for outline consent, Jan 2013

While the number of homes proposed exceeds the number consented, Lendlease proposes a reduction in the number of affordable homes. Only 541 of the 2,689 homes will be affordable, 29 fewer than the indicative figure of 570 given to the planning committee in 2013.

The figure for the 570 approved affordable homes was given on page 9 of the 2013 planning committee's addendum report (correcting a previous figure of 574).

Table 8.1 of the recently submitted Reconciliation Statement for the MP5 reserved matters application shows that only 541 affordable homes are now proposed overall.

Extract from the addendum to the 2013 outline planning committee report

Extract from Lendlease's recently submitted application

Southwark fail to secure housing numbers

The increase from 2,469 to 2,689 total units on Elephant Park has been facilitated by an amendment to the original planning permission. This was made in November 2018 and changed the way the amount of residential space was calculated by replacing the minimum and maximum figures for residential units with floorspace figures. The floorspace figures remained the same as those approved by the planning committee (160,579sqm GEA {min} and 254,400sqm GEA {max}), but by removing the unit figures the amendment enables Lendlease to build more homes within the allowed floorspace.

It also transpires that the number of units to be built were not secured in the original planning permission, thus opening the door to the amendment, which was deemed 'non-material' and so was approved by officers and not referred to the planning committee.

Policy compliance

While Lendlease has not delivered the number of affordable homes expected by the planning committee, they are nonetheless able to say they are fulfilling the affordable housing obligation of 25% affordable housing. This is because the amount of affordable housing is measured as a percentage of habitable rooms, not units. The officer's report to the planning committee noted that there were a relatively high proportion of larger affordable units. These are undoubtedly welcome, but do mean that there is just 20% affordable housing when measured by units.

Viability questions

At the time of the application's original determination in 2013, a viability review was proposed in the event that the development was delayed, or a change of circumstances occured. No such viability review has occured to take into account Lendlease's proposed increase in density or reduction of affordable units.

Extract from the 2013 planning committee report

The increase in maximum units to 2,689 units with the 29 unit drop in affordable housing gives Lendlease about 190 more free-market homes than the planning committee was led to believe would be built. These have a rough estimated value of £80m, a figure that obviously cannot have featured in the 2012 viability assessment. This assessment was made on the basis of 2,462 units and concluded that the scheme could not provide 35% affordable housing and that only a very small fraction could be social rented.

No public funding?

The lack of available public funding was cited in the officer's report as a factor that diminished the chances of a viable scheme delivering 35% affordable housing, when the application was originally considered.

This came with the reassurance that should public funding become available the affordable housing situation could be improved. There is no indication that this has happened through the duration of Elephant Park's development, despite the Mayor Sadiq Khan having £4.6bn in his kitty.

Object to MP5 - fight for 84 more affordable homes

Lendlease's detailed MP5 H7 application is almost the final chapter in the redevelopment of the Heygate estate and it allows us to evaluate what is being delivered, against what was said and what was approved by Southwark Council, back in 2013.

It is now apparent that while Lendlease will fulfil its reduced affordable housing obligation they intend to do so by delivering fewer affordable homes. Lendlease has also been granted a change in the permission that has allowed them to build many more units. The upshot is that Lendlease has about 190 more free-market homes to sell.

Southwark, on the other hand, has neglected to secure the number of homes to be built and is giving Lendlease the opportunity to build more, without getting any improvement in the affordable housing situation. There also appears to have been no effort to take advantage of any public funding.

This final Heygate application must be decided by the planning committee, not officers alone. It must ask why we are getting fewer affordable housing units than it was told to expect, while Lendlease are being allowed to build more units in total. The committee must also ask why there have been no viability reviews since 2013 and what has been done to improve the affordable housing.

Without a viability review, the planning committee must refuse planning permission. The very least Lendlease should do is increase the total number of affordable homes, back to the indicative 570 the planning committee approved, plus 25% of the additional 220 units it has gained over the original maximum build. This would give us a much-needed 84 affordable homes and half of these must be social rented, as Southwark's housing policy requires.

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