CLLR RABINA KHAN has outlined her objections to John Biggs’s plan to cram thousands of residential units into the already highly developed south of Tower Hamlets.
Cllr Khan’s comments were made in a submission to the Council’s consultation on the draft Local Plan, which states that development will be encouraged on the Isle of Dogs, South Poplar and the Lower Lea Valley. There are also plans to cram more housing into the City Fringe.
These locations are already very full (even more so when you take into account planning applications that have been granted but not built yet, or are in the pipeline). They are also the most expensive parts of the Borough, so developers will be trying to squeeze every last unit out of what they are building – and social housing will cost more to build.
Cllr Khan is also very concerned over what kind of homes the Council is intending to build. “In the last Local Plan adopted in 2013 in my former Cabinet Position of Housing & Regeneration,” she says, “I had put in measures to plan for family homes at affordable prices, but in the new plan it appears that the vision is to build far fewer family homes at higher prices.”
John Biggs is proposing that when developers include social housing in their plans, 50% of the units they provide for rent should be at “London affordable rents”. Cllr Khan points out that the London rents are calculated on the basis of incomes across London, which is way above the income of most ordinary people in Tower Hamlets and, therefore, not at all affordable for most family sized households. Her worry is that residents will be driven out of the borough to find accommodation which they can afford to rent.
Cllr Khan addressed the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 17th September and objected to the fact that the Plan made no reference to the Grenfell Tower and what should be done to prevent any similar disasters occurring in Tower Hamlets. Cllr Rachael Blake, the Cabinet Member responsible for the Local Plan, replied that the Council wanted to make sure new buildings were safe for residents and visitors, but that it would wait to see what the Grenfell Enquiry recommended before it changed any Council policies.
Cllr Khan welcomed this commitment, but told the Committee that the Council had a duty to include a section on “Challenges” in its Local Plan and that the issues brought up by the Grenfell fire should have been at least flagged up there.
Cllr Khan has also criticised the Local Plan for not putting forward a policy in favour of more Community Land Trusts (CLTs). In particular, there are ongoing discussions in her own ward, Shadwell, involving local residents and Telco. They have identified a site currently owned by Transport for London (TfL) which they hope could be developed as a CLT – but the plan gives residents no support on this matter.
“I am very concerned about the housing proposals in the Local Plan,” Cllr Khan told ELN. “John Biggs should be putting local people and local families first, but this Plan looks too much like it is skewed in favour of the kind of building which developers like to do, so they can stack up their profits. This is not a plan which puts people first. I’m afraid John Biggs has bungled it again.”