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A new community centre and affordable housing too

February 8, 2010

January 26th 2010

Over 800 local people are celebrating the decision to grant planning permission to renovate the old St David’s Church on Westbourne Road and Lough Road. The West Area planning committee’s decision was met with “rapturous applause” according to the Islington Gazette. This follows many months of negotiation with the commercial development company who will build 42 apartments – of which a third will be affordable homes. The committee which has a 5-1 Labour majority overturned a recommendation from its planning officials to reject the scheme.

Profits from the apartment building will also help to fund a £4 million scheme to turn the old church into a community facility which will also be home to many needed services addressing problems in the area – poor health, anti-social behaviour, youth crime and teenage pregnancy.

The moving force behind the scheme is Revd Jonathan Rust, a vicar at the parish of St Mary Magdalene and St David who has committed several years’ hard work to realise this ambitious project.

Labour Councillors on the planning committee rejected a previous application for 38 flats in June 2009 because only two homes would have been made been “affordable” and available for social rent. Islington Labour has continually pressed for all developments to provide at least 50 per cent affordable so that we can house more of the 13,000 people on the council’s housing waiting list.

Immediately following the first refusal, Labour councillor Paul Convery (chair of the committee) began discussions with Jonathan Rust to rescue the community centre project.

Paul says: “Refusing the previous application forced the Church’s developer to come back with a much better scheme. We have now got funding for the community centre and achieved a good amount of affordable housing too. I am delighted that the Church is going to get a good deal from this. We forced the Church’s commercial developer to cut their profit margin to the bone.”

“This shows what happens when you take a tough stance on affordable housing. Last summer, the Lib Dems wrongly claimed that we had turned down a scheme to provide a community centre because we wanted affordable housing instead. In the end, we got both.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. C power permalink
    February 25, 2010 5:00 pm

    More affordable homes? It’s not affordable homes we need it’s more social housing! Throughout islington there are a lot of affordable homes being or have been built but in reality they are not affordable. Myself and my partner work and there is no way we can afford to buy a flat in islington and not even in London. The fact that there is thousands of people on the islington housing list and the current climate of banks not lending etc shouldn’t the council be thinking about actually building homes people can really afford!!

    • February 25, 2010 5:18 pm

      Agree totally. Perhaps we’ve been suckered into using the catch-all phrase “affordable” wrongly. In the case of the St David’s site, all the new homes will be for social rent with a couple of flats reserved for church-based community workers. In the behind-the-scenes negotation we made it clear that we wanted to see social rented and not “intermediate” housing. As Labour councillors, we are sceptical about how intermediate tenure housing works (part rent, part buy) because the valuations are so ridiculosuly high that, even to purchase a 50% share of a 1 bed flat, typically requires a gross income of around £35,000 a year. And the families on our housing waiting list overwhelmingly want a rented home from a trusted social landlord … and not a mortgage.

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