Flats plan backed despite breaching ‘affordable housing’ guidelines

The development site from across Deptford Creek. Pic: Dominique Boulan

A development of high rise flats offering only 10 to 15 per cent of ‘affordable housing’ – well below Lewisham Council’s promise of 50 per cent – has been approved by planners.

The development alongside Deptford Creek includes a brand-new five storey building for music and dance college Trinity Laban Conservatoire, together with two 26 storey and 30 storey residential towers. The site is currently owned by developers Kitewood, Trinity Laban and Lewisham Council.

Despite objections from some councillors, the scheme was approved on the condition that Trinity Laban does more community work and that the Creekside would be made publicly accessible. London Mayor Sadiq Khan will now have to give final approval.

The initial plan included just 10 percent affordable housing, but the developer told the council it could make it 15 percent, but only if the application would be approved during the meeting. The council has previously promised to achieve 50 per cent affordable housing in all such developments.

Public benefit

Some councillors were concerned the benefits Trinity Laban would have for the community would not outweigh the projects failure to deliver more affordable housing. Planning officers told the committee the benefit for Trinity Laban and the 10 percent affordable housing are the equivalent of 35 percent affordable housing, being much closer to the council’s policy aspirations.

Councillor Kevin Bonavia said: “I’m concerned about council land being involved here, because I don’t see the public benefit of this project with so little affordable housing.”

Tabling a motion to reject the scheme, Bonavia said: “The public benefit Trinity Laban would bring the community did not outweigh the failure to offer affordable housing closer to the 50 percent policy aspiration of affordable homes.” The motion was defeated.

Community work

The conservatoire has a reputation as an “exclusive school” and Councillor James-J Walsh said he was worried that only “the more privileged” would benefit from Trinity Laban’s presence. “I’d like to see some numbers of young BAME community members being involved with Trinity.”

But Professor Anthony Bowne, principal of Trinity Laban, told the meeting: “We do a lot of work with the community. More than any other higher education institution in Southeast London and more than any other conservatoire in the country.”

“Trinity Laban creates 600 jobs and brings in £33m to the local economy on a yearly basis. Over half of the people that come in for our community programs are BAME community. So our school is not just for ‘privileged white people’ but a proper representation of Lewisham’s community.”

The new building was “essential” to “secure the conservatoire’s future”, Bowne said. “We’ve suffered from budget cuts by the government. To be financially sustainable we need more students. This is only possible with more facilities.”

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