Opponents of the proposed redevelopment of land around Millwall Football Club, known as the New Bermondsey scheme, include in their list of complaints the small proportion of new homes that the existing planning consent requires to be “affordable” – just 12% of the 2,400 envisaged. However, On London can report that work on increasing that number has been underway since the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor.
One of Khan’s first steps towards boosting the percentage of what he calls “genuinely affordable” homes in new housing developments across the capital to an overall 50% was to produce draft planning guidance to encourage private developers to include at least 35% in their schemes, without subsidy.
Should they fail to do so they undergo close scrutiny at City Hall to see if the developers’ sums are sound and whether the project merits a donation from the mayor’s housing purse to get the “affordable” numbers up.
Permission for the New Bermondsey scheme was granted by Labour-run Lewisham Council under Khan’s Conservative predecessor Boris Johnson, but efforts to improve the affordable component have been made since his departure. The area had been designated a housing zone under Johnson, which meant mayoral help was already a possibility.
It seems that Khan’s team, developer Renewal and Lewisham Council have made progress on getting the affordable figure “rising towards 35%” as one source puts it, though I’m told it could be less if that enables more of the “genuinely affordable” homes to be a bit cheaper.
Aspects of New Bermondsey scheme are now the subject of an inquiry, set up by Lewisham, after a series of articles in the Guardian suggesting that council officers did not act properly when taking decisions about the scheme, including pursuing the option of using compulsory purchase powers to take full ownership of Millwall’s car park and adjacent land where the associated Lions Centre stands. The inquiry aims to report by the end of the year. The club has claimed that the New Bermondsey plans could force it to move to Kent, though the council and Renewal insist that the club’s continuing presence is integral to their vision.
Meanwhile, Willow Winston, an artist who has a studio in the area which might itself be subject to compulsory purchase, has been standing as a candidate in the general election. Winston, sister of Professor Robert Winston, did not not contest the constituency containing the development area, but instead chose Lewisham East because the MP there, Labour’s Heidi Alexander, was Lewisham’s cabinet member for regeneration until 2010. Discussion of the project was underway while Alexander was in that post, though planning permission for the scheme was not granted until 2012.
Winston has been described by the Guardian as “adopted as a favourite aunt and cult figure by Millwall fans”, and its multi-media department made a film in praise of her after she announced her parliamentary bid. The result of the election is here.