13:32, October 26 62 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-26 13:32:03
Haringey a test case for local democracy

Aditya Chakrabortty (It’s one man against a housing juggernaut, 25 October) is right that the high court case to stop Haringey’s HDV regeneration plans is an important one, with potentially far reaching implications for people in a number of areas facing top-down plans to change housing. Yet the case is about more than that; it is central to the future of local democracy. No one faced with having their home demolished in north Tottenham was asked at the last council election in 2014 if they thought this was a good plan. Subsequently, the council has not balloted tenants either. Apparently ballots simplify matters into a yes or no answer, which can be awkward, particularly if it is the latter. The New Labour grouping on Haringey council want to change Tottenham, but have failed to notice that the operation of the market is doing it anyway. In the last 10 years the area has become home to five breweries, some internationally known, and a nationally renowned cheese-maker. The issue is how that change now proceeds. Will it be in the interests of the ordinary Labour voters of Tottenham, who mostly would prefer their home not to be knocked down, or will it be in the interests of the multinational privateer Lendlease, Haringey’s HDV partner? You’d think a Labour council would easily be able to spot which side it should be on here, but apparently not.

Keith Flett

London

Only one in five of the new homes forecast to be built on public land and sold off are likely to be classified as affordable, and as little as 6% of new homes are likely to be social rented housing because of a get-out clause. The National Planning Policy Framework says developers’ schemes “should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is threatened”. Such wording allows developers to appeal against planning obligations if they can prove, using a “financial viability assessment”, that building the required amount of affordable homes would threaten a good profit to the landowner. For redeveloping the Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate the level of “acceptable” profit was fixed at 25% – around £300m.

In practice this means that developers can be granted planning permission on the understanding that they will deliver the council’s agreed level of affordable housing. But after work begins, the developer submits a viability assessment showing that if they continue as planned, they won’t make a profit unless they lower the number of affordable homes. Councils then face a difficult choice: accept a proposed development that only partially meets local needs, or not have one at all and go through the whole planning process again.

David Murray

Wallington, Surrey

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