The Elephant's new Ivory Towers
As part of our evidence gathering for the Heygate FOI appeal hearing, we undertook some analysis of the planning applications behind the Elephant’s new high-rise developments. After sifting through pages of planning documents we managed to extract some key figures and have come up with the following startling results:
The six largest developments comprise a total of 4,282 new homes of which just 79 will be social rented.1
Viability assessments helped developers avoid £265m in off-site affordable housing tariff payments required by policy.
All six developments are situated on former public-owned land.
In order to crunch the numbers properly we had to obtain the total number of habitable rooms in each development. This is how the 35% policy requirement is worked out: 35% of the total number of habitable rooms must be affordable and 50% of these must be social rented as per Southwark’s planning policy requirements at the Elephant. It is worth reiterating that these policy requirements are based on an independent council-commissioned viability study ensuring that this minimum level of affordable housing requirements is indeed viable.
Next we took the number of habitable rooms sorted by type of affordable housing in each development. We subtracted this from the number of each type required by policy and then multiplied it by the Council’s off-site affordable housing tariff for the Elephant & Castle area. This is the amount a developer must pay if they fail to meet the 35% on-site affordable housing minimum requirement. However, policy also says that this in-lieu payment can further be reduced if the developer submits a viability appraisal pleading viability poverty. Our analysis shows that this loophole has meant a loss to the Council of £265m in off-site tariff payments, in what has become habitual practice by developers not just at the Elephant but across the borough.
FOI Tribunal update
For those who have been following our FOI appeal updates and are wondering what the Informaton Tribunal’s decision on the appeal is, the good news is that there are only 10 more days to wait. The decision was originally delayed due to the judge’s ill-health but is now due to be announced on 25th April - watch this space!
Note that our list does not include the Newington Triangle or shopping centre developments (totalling approx 1,500 more homes) - for which there are no planning applications yet submitted, but which have been rumoured not to foresee the inclusion of any social rented homes. ↩