Plans for a multi-billion pound development on Deptford’s riverside will not deliver enough affordable housing – and fail to meet the council’s own targets – say local residents.
The Convoys Wharf regeneration scheme, which covers 40 acres in the historic docklands area, will see the construction of 3,541 residential units in total. But only 500, or 14 per cent, will be ‘affordable’ under plans currently lodged in the planning process.
Of these, 60 per cent will fall under ‘intermediate’ rent and the remainder social housing – but neither will include four-bedroom homes.
Campaigners say that this falls far short of Lewisham Council’s own target of 50 per cent total affordable homes on new developments in the borough, and fails to meet local housing needs.
They are angered by what they see as the council’s role in allowing such a low level to be set.
Julian Kingston, a member of the group Deptford Is…, which runs a blog on the issues surrounding the development, told EastLondonLines: “There is not enough housing provided for local people’s needs. I think it shows the colour and character of the current development and sums up what the developers are all about.
“Personally, I would like to see different uses of the site – with more space dedicated to employment and less housing overall, but with a higher proportion that is affordable”.
Criticism of aspects of the development has resonated on other local blogs over recent months.
Crosswhatfields?, run by a group of residents on the nearby Crossfields estate, has questioned why the proportion of affordable homes has dropped from an original promise of 25 per cent and attacked what they see as creating a ‘dormitory’ for City workers. This sentiment was echoed by Deptford Dame, where the housing provisions were described as “woeful”
Responding to the accusations, Hong Kong-based developers Hutchison Whampoa told EastLondonLines that given recent cuts to government grants for affordable housing, the project would not be financially viable if the level was set higher.
They added that the developer, which bills itself as the second largest inward investor in the UK, “will be paying for these homes entirely from within the development costs” in partnership with housing association London and Quadrant.
Under planning law, local authorities can force large-scale developers to contribute, either by compulsion or negotiation, towards projects that are of benefit to the community or offset the impact of the development.
The effect of these agreements – dubbed ‘section 106’ – on profit margins is then taken into account by developers when deciding whether to proceed.
Under the provisional s.106 plans put forward for Convoys Wharf, Hutchison Whampoa will contribute towards the construction of a primary school as well as paying £6m over three years to TfL for the provision of transport links and infrastructure.
However, any additional increase in low-rent housing appears to have been ruled out, with the majority of residential units to be for market-value sale.
With Lewisham’s waiting list for social housing currently topping 17,000 – and in light of the council’s own admission in its Housing Strategy that “home ownership is out of reach for many residents” due to low incomes – many in Deptford remain unconvinced of the project’s merits.
A council spokesperson said they were unable to comment until a formal decision is taken.
Plans for the transformation of the largest remaining development site in London have stalled since former owners News International first produced plans for the site in 2002.
Convoys Wharf boasts a long heritage. Originally established as the first Royal Dockyard by Henry VIII in 1513, it was where the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada was built and was the harbour where Francis Drake was knighted aboard the Golden Hinde in 1581.
It was also home to diarist and founding member of the Royal Society John Evelyn, whose gardens and manor are currently the subject of an archeological dig.
The consultation runs until mid-December and a decision on the application is expected at some point next year.