Southwark backs 4,000 home scheme with affordable housing ratio that puts applicant at "risk"

Southwark Council has resolved to grant consent for a south-east London mixed-use scheme which could deliver close to 4,000 homes, after planners advised that its promised minimum proportion of 35 per cent affordable housing was pushing the scheme's current viability to the limits.

A visualisation of part of the finished Canada Water scheme (pic: British Land)
A visualisation of part of the finished Canada Water scheme (pic: British Land)

The borough yesterday approved a hybrid application for the mixed-use masterplan for Canada Water.

According to a planning report, the development would see the construction of 656,200 square metres of floorspace, including new retail, office, hotel, residential, student accommodation, leisure, bars and restaurants.

The site currently includes a 1980s-built shopping centre, a bowling alley, cinema and restaurant/cafés, all of which would be demolished under the plan.

The approval grants full planning permission for the first phase of the development – on plots A1, A2 and K1 – and outline planning permission with all matters reserved for the remaining areas of the site.

The report said that the residential element of the plan includes proposals for "a minimum of 2,000 new homes", but adds that the "‘maximum residential’ scenario could see up to approximately 3,995 new homes being delivered.

The report says that, if 2,000 homes were delivered, the scheme would provide 35 per cent of these as affordable, made up of 25 per cent social rent and ten per cent intermediate.

It said that increases in housing delivery up to around 3,995 new homes "would lead to a proportionate increase in affordable homes."

The report noted that this level of affordable housing "is quite significantly beyond the viable position in present day terms and so invites some risk to the applicant", developer British Land.

The report said that the offer was possible "due to a combination of factors, including a commercial view of how the values will change over time and the inherent flexibility to amend the mix of land uses, phasing and form of development to better respond to market conditions."

Elsewhere, the report advised that an area action plan (AAP) for Canada Water "expects development in the core area to be within the urban density range of 200-700 habitable rooms per hectare, with the only exceptions to this being when development has an exemplary design standard."

Planners said that, with "the minimum quantum of development, a density of 422 habitable rooms per hectare is estimated, which is within the expected density range for the AAP" , while the "maximum parameter would have an estimated density of almost 1,200 habitable rooms per hectare."

The report said that future reserved matters applications "would need to demonstrate how the architecture of the buildings, the quality of accommodation, and the public realm design would be of an exemplary standard."

It added that "given the prevailing direction of policy, this emphasis on design excellence is likely to be the key consideration for assessing the density of future phases of the masterplan, rather than adherence to strict numerical ranges."

A statement from British Land said that it expects the masterplan to take around 15 years to be delivered.

Southwark Council resolved to approve the plans, subject to the decision's referal to the mayor of London. 

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