The planning application for the site of the former New Scotland Yard building at 8-10 Broadway in Westminster was previously approved by former mayor Boris Johnson but Sadiq Khan has now thrown it out.
The site was sold to Abu Dhabi Financial Group by the previous mayor for £370m who then gave planning permission for a development of 268 apartments in six new towers up to 20 storeys each, between Victoria Station and Westminster Abbey. The developer, BL Developments, offered a £10m payment and 10 affordable homes (just 4% of all units) in April 2016.
BL Developments subsequently lodged a ‘section 73 application’ to increase the total number of homes to 295, with no increase in the number of affordable units or payment in lieu, meaning the level of affordable housing fell further still to only 3%. The application was referred to the Mayor of London after Westminster City Council’s draft decision in May.
Shortly after becoming mayor last year, Sadiq Khan instructed City Hall’s planners to scrutinise the level of affordable housing in all planning applications referred to him. The scheme for 8-10 Broadway was deemed to fall way short of his affordable housing ambitions.
Earlier this year the Mayor of London published supplementary planning guidance on viability and affordable housing, which said that developers offering at least 35% affordable housing without public subsidy could expect a quicker, easier route through the planning system.
The mayor’s decision to throw out BL’s plans comes just a few weeks after he criticised Wandsworth Council for allowing the developers of Battersea Power Station to cut the amount of affordable housing from 636 homes to 386 – which is 9% of the 4,239 homes being built across the scheme. The Mayor of London had no formal power to intervene at Battersea under current planning regulations, but wrote to the council to voice his opposition to their decision.
Sadiq Khan said of the New Scotland Yard application: “A shortage of affordable homes is at the heart of the housing crisis in our city. The scheme put forward for this site is simply unacceptable: it fails to provide the maximum amount of affordable housing that could be delivered on this landmark site, and follows a previous application in which the affordable housing provision agreed by the previous mayor was already appallingly low. It beggars belief that the initial application was approved under the previous mayor with a paltry 4% affordable housing, just days before the mayoral election.
“This is a site which has only recently been transferred from public ownership and sits within one of the most expensive areas of the country. Having carefully considered the evidence available to me, I have decided to refuse permission for this amended application.
“This comes just a few weeks after the outrageous decision to cut the level of affordable housing at Battersea Power Station and I am more determined than ever to do all I can to ensure Londoners are not short-changed when it comes to developers doing their bit to help tackle London’s housing crisis. The government now needs to show it is committed to this too and devolve the powers to help me stop developers getting away with unacceptably low levels of affordable housing.”