A major luxury residential scheme backed by Abu Dhabi investors at the old Metropolitan Police headquarters in London has been refused by the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan because it doesn’t contain enough affordable housing.
Billed as a sign of the Labour mayor’s determination to fix London’s housing crisis, as well as a sharp rebuke to Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson, the decision announced on 5 September affects "The Broadway", a proposed development featuring six towers containing 295 mostly high-end apartments at the site of the former New Scotland Yard in Westminster.
Khan said he rejected the scheme because the developer BL Development Ltd, owned by the Abu Dhabi Financial Group, a major investor in London property, sought to bump up the number of apartments by 27 to 295 without upping the number of affordable homes, which stood at 10 units.
The scheme put forward for this site is simply unacceptable– Sadiq Khan, London Mayor
That meant the percentage of affordable homes provided dropped from 4% in the original plan to 3%.
BL Development’s application for 8-10 Broadway also offered a £10m cash payment in lieu for the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.
But the proposal angered Khan. Deploying a team of experts hired after his election in May 2016 to scrutinise planning applications for their affordable housing provision, the mayor decided BL Development could allocate more and refused the application.
Khan also criticised the previous mayor Boris Johnson, now a Conservative MP and the UK foreign secretary, for selling the site and allowing a scheme with such a "paltry" level of affordable housing to get this far in the planning process.
"The scheme put forward for this site is simply unacceptable," Khan said in a statement, adding: "it fails to provide the maximum amount of affordable housing that could be delivered on this landmark site, and follows a previous application in which the affordable housing provision agreed by the previous Mayor was already appallingly low.
"It beggars belief that the initial application was approved under the previous Mayor with a paltry four per cent affordable housing, just days before the Mayoral election.
"This is a site which has only recently been transferred from public ownership and sits within one of the most expensive areas of the country. Having carefully considered the evidence available to me, I have decided to refuse permission for this amended application."
Khan is turning up the heat on London developers. Earlier this year he published his Supplementary Planning Guidance which said developers offering at least 35% affordable housing without public subsidy could expect a quicker route through the planning system.
The mayor billed his decision on The Broadway as part of a campaign to tackle London’s housing crisis. Earlier in the week he wrote to the UK Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, urging the government to allow increased council tax charges on empty properties in central London.
Last month the mayor slammed Wandsworth Council for allowing the developers of Battersea Power Station to slash the amount of affordable housing by 40%, from 636 homes to just 386, or 9% of the 4,239 homes across the scheme.
Under current planning regulations Khan had no formal power to do more at Battersea than express his displeasure in writing.
Image: Artist’s conception of the six-tower residential scheme, "The Broadway", proposed for the former New Scotland Yard premises in Westminster, London (Courtesy of BL Development)