A government planning inspector has backed a major retail and 121-home development in Wood Green after Haringey Council dropped its objection to the level of affordable housing on the site.
The three to nine floor development on the site of the former Marks and Spencer store on Wood Green High Road, which closed its doors in 2015 after 77 years’ trading, proposed 25 per cent affordable homes, with the council having first refusal on those for rent.
With British Home Stores nearby closing down in 2016 and concern mounting about the viability of the lower part of the Wood Green shopping centre, the council’s local plan had allocated a significant stretch of the High Road for comprehensive redevelopment.
Council planning officers recommended the scheme following negotiations which saw the amount of affordable housing increased from just nine per cent. Even that level of affordable homes had been judged “unviable” after an independent assessment conducted for the council, with the increase achieved by reducing profit levels.
Planning committee councillors nevertheless rejected the revised plans by seven votes to four, arguing that the design quality was poor and that the site would be overdeveloped, as well as objecting the level of affordable housing.
Developers PPR Estates promptly appealed, and the inspector’s report confirms that councillors dropped the affordable housing objections before the appeal hearing took place: “There is agreement…that this is the maximum offer that could be realised on this site, and the council did not contest this at the hearing.”
The councillors’ earlier decision to object to the upwardly-revised affordable housing component came at a closed-doors meeting, to which legal advice contained in confidential reports was presented describing the committee’s stance as a “doomed case” because no arguments were available to counter assessments of the scheme’s viability, leaving “no realistic prospect of success” at appeal and resulting costs possibly reaching £300,000.
The council’s second grounds for refusal were also rejected by the inspector. “There is no doubt that this area is one where comprehensive redevelopment is necessary, both to improve the immediate retail offering, but also to stimulate further investment,” he said. While the nine-storey elements of the development could appear “incongruous” in isolation, the scheme in the context of wider redevelopment plans was “of a high quality that positively responds to the character and appearance of the area,” he added.
The decision was welcomed by scheme architects Fourfoursixsix. “This positive result will facilitate the delivery of a diverse range of high-quality housing and commercial space, breathing new life into this underutilised site, in line with Haringey’s Local Plan,” said director Daniel Welham.
The council has subsequently given the green light to redevelopment of the neighbouring former BHS site, replacing the late 1950’s “brutalist” store with 197 new homes rising from three to eight storeys, a 134-room hotel, retail space and a new public courtyard.
That scheme would provide 35 per cent affordable housing, increased to 40 per cent with grant funding. Of the affordable homes, 45 per cent would be for social rent, with 36 per cent at London Living Rent (LLR) levels with no option to buy. The council will have first option to buy the social rent and LLR homes.
Proposals are also in train for a further site at 48-54 High Road, a part six, part eight storey development with new retail space and 76 homes.
Development of the lower part of Wood Green High Road has been consistently supported by the recently established Wood Green Business Improvement District (BID). “This part of Wood Green High Road is in severe decline,” the business group said in comments on the M&S site plans. “Regeneration…is badly needed.”
Image from the Fourfoursixsix website.
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