Mayor of London and H&F Council at war over Fulham tower block

Both the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Labour leadership of Hammersmith and Fulham Council are enthusiastic supporters of having yet more tower blocks. However they still manage to attack each other specific proposals. The Council opposes the Mayor’s plans for new 26-storey buildings in Old Oak. He is ignoring those objections.

Now the Mayor is getting his own back on his Labour colleagues by announcing he will block their plans for a replacement to Edith Summerskill House on the Clem Atlee Estate in Fulham.

The response from his office notes:

“The proposed development comprises the erection of a single residential tower of 20 storeys that would replace the existing 18 storey tower. With the provision of greater floor to ceiling heights the proposals would result in an increase in height from 54 metres to 72.2 metres.”

That bit doesn’t bother the Mayor at all. But it is an appalling proposal. In what sort of deranged socialist utopia does it make sense to replace a tower block with an even taller tower block? Due to the wasted space around tower block you can have more homes with lower rise buildings.

Then there is the small matter of building housing that people actually want. Overwhelmingly people would prefer to live in attractive traditional homes and not in tower blocks. The Grenfell Tower tragedy strengthens this feeling.

Anyway while regarding the general idea of a new tower block as absolutely fine the Mayor’s Office still says the specific plan put forward by the Council is unacceptable.

One objection the Mayor has to his Labour colleagues is their scheme would mean a loss of affordable housing. His report says:

“The Mayor’s Affordable Housing and Viability SPG provides additional guidance on estate regeneration and makes it clear that the Mayor expects existing affordable housing to be replaced on a like-for-like basis.

This application will deliver 100% affordable housing, with 106 units for social rent and the remaining 27 units for intermediate rent (a split of 80%/20%). Across the two sites, there will be an uplift of 10 affordable housing units and would equate to 41% affordable housing by habitable room (35% by unit).

However, in light of the proposed twin-track approach to affordable housing, which sees this site reproviding the existing social rented accommodation at Watermeadow Court, in addition to its own reprovision requirements, there would be an overall net loss of 17 units based on social rent levels, and 1,188 sq.m. of floorspace at that level; this is contrary to the London Plan, the Mayor’s Affordable Housing an Viability SPG, and the Mayor’s Homes for Londoners: draft good practice guidance for estate regeneration. This is wholly unacceptable.”

At the some time the scheme fails to increase the tenure mix at the Clem Atlee Estate:

“London Plan Policy 3.9 (Mixed and balanced communities) states that “Communities mixed and balanced by tenure and household income should be promoted across London through incremental small scale as well as larger scale developments… A more balanced mix of tenures should be sought in all parts of London, particularly in some neighbourhoods where social renting predominates and there are concentrations of deprivation.” Estate regeneration therefore provides the opportunity for a more balanced mix of tenures to be introduced into an estate, promoting social diversity and redressing social exclusion. For this reason, the supporting text to Policy 3.9 notes that infill schemes on predominantly social housing estates should primarily be targeted for intermediate and market housing. 

GLA officers are seriously concerned about the overall strategy to concentrate affordable housing delivery into a tower on an existing estate, whilst redeveloping Watermeadow Court, located in a different ward with differing socio-economic characteristics, as a 100% private housing scheme. The approach would reinforce the existing tenure of the estate by providing a greater number of predominantly social rented units in a 20 storey tower, albeit introducing a small number of intermediate rented units. At the same time, the proposal at Watermeadow Court would demolish existing affordable housing and redevelop the site for private housing, in an area close to the river and Imperial Wharf, and characterised by largely private housing. The approach to delivery of affordable housing across the two schemes is therefore not considered to promote mixed and balanced communities and is contrary to London Plan Policy 3.9.  “

There are also objections on design:

“The choice of material for the upper floor facades is precast concrete, which results in a visual heaviness to the building and monolithic appearance that lacks depth or quality, and is reminiscent of the poor quality existing Edith Summerskill House.”

This is just the latest episode in the shambolic handling by Labour of the site – which at one stage even included falsification Council minutes and years of delay.

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