The decision to limit the allocation of affordable housing in the prestigious £1.4bn Croydon Westfield project to just 20 per cent has been slammed by City Hall as “unacceptable” and “inconsistent with the principles of openness and transparency”.
The comments, which have emerged in planning documents that were scrutinised by councillors last week, indicate that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan could directly intervene to force up the number of affordable homes.
The redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre, which was unanimously approved by Croydon Council, will include up to 967 new apartments. However, only 193 – 20 per cent – will be affordable, offered for rent at between 60 to 80 per cent of average prices for similar properties. Croydon Council’s target is that 50 per cent of new residential developments be affordable.
Developers argued that any greater allocation would limit profits, exempting them from the requirement to provide more affordable housing. However, the Council’s decision to accept the appeal has been shielded from public scrutiny, as the evidence submitted to planning officers is subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
Khan, who has to sign off on the project due to its size, has made increasing London’s stock of affordable housing a key plank of his Mayorship.
His new London Plan, which sets out a five-year strategy for building more homes, will say that 65 per cent of new homes built in the city should be affordable.
Khan has intervened to take planning powers out of the hands of local authorities four times since becoming Mayor in 2016, in a crackdown on housing developments that claim to be unable to offer at least 35 per cent affordable housing.
Most recently, in October he negotiated an increase in affordable housing on a development in Wandsworth from 23 per cent to 35 per cent. He also intervened in a project in Mill Hill to raise the allocation from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.
However, Councillor Paul Scott, Chair of the Croydon Planning Committee, defended the scheme. He said: “Although the Whitgift project falls below our ambitious target of 50 per cent affordable housing, it exceeds the minimum of 15 per cent that we demand of all new developments.
“These are build-to-rent apartments, meaning that they will remain affordable to Croydon renters in perpetuity and won’t just be sold off in the future.
“We also insisted on a review mechanism in the plans, which means that if the project is more profitable than expected, the allocation of affordable housing will rise in line with it.”
The Whitgift proposals are currently being scrutinised by the Mayor’s office and a decision is expected to be made in the next month.
A spokesperson for City Hall declined to comment on the proposals.