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Major planning application rejected by local Councillors

March 7, 2010

The site at Canonbury Road is mainly used for surface car parking. It has excellent housing potential. But it needs a different scheme.

Councillors on the West Area planning committee voted unanimously on Thursday 4th March to reject a planning application to develop a complex of 134 apartments near Highbury Corner. Over 600 objection letters had been received by the Council and many amenity and conservation societies in the Borough had voiced their opposition.

For many years, the site known as 85 Canonbury Road, had been a Ford car dealership. It’s now a slightly run-down and under-used site which has excellent potential for housing. What’s more, the application was from a large housing association which promised that nearly a half of the new flats would be “affordable” homes. But the arguments to turn the plans down were very powerful.

Put simply, the building was just too high and would fit very badly in the setting of the adjoining conservation area. It would be much larger and taller than the Council had previously indicated would be acceptable in a planning framework for the site. Some nearby houses would have suffered significant loss of light.

Worst of all, just 49% of the homes would be affordable. And only 60% of these would be socially rented (the rest being “intermediate tenure”). And the bulk of these affordable homes would be 1 or 2 bedroom flats when our policy is to ensure larger homes suitable for families.

The Labour Councillors were outraged that a housing association was only offering half of the flats as affordable. Labour Councillors and members of the public had objected saying that a registered social landlord (RSL) should provide a higher proportion of affordable homes. Incredibly, the Notting Hill Housing Trust wrote to the Council saying it was “a misconception” that because a site was being developed by an RSL rather than a private developer, “it could or should include a higher proportion of affordable homes”.

Councillor Paul Convery who is chair of the planning committee roundly criticised Notting Hill Housing Trust saying “the primary purpose of an RSL is to provide a high proportion of affordable homes, preferably socially rented ones. After all, RSLs enjoy considerable advantages over private developers. They have exclusive access to grants and subsidy from the Government; they have a special partnership status with local authorities; they pay no corporation tax and get business rate rebates because they are charities; they are exempt from many of the EU ‘state-aid’ rules; they can borrow capital more cheaply than private developers; and they have no shareholders demanding profits and dividends. It is therefore staggering that Notting Hill Housing Trust claims to be in exactly the same position as a private developer.”

All six Councillors voting on Thursday evening were Labour members. Two of the six Councillors were Caledonian Ward’s Paul Convery (chair of the committee) and Rupert Perry (immediate past chair of the committee). Over the past 4 years, Labour has made affordable housing a top priority and has acted with determination to use the local planning systemto maximise affordable homes in the West Area of Islington. The 4 wards making-up West Area are St Marys, Barnsbury, Caledonian and Holloway. Ten out of the twelve Council seats in the West Area are held by Labour.

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