Westminster Council’s new draft City Plan is a missed opportunity to positively transform our city according to Westminster Labour.
While the new draft City Plan contains a some positive steps, it has some areas of real concern. Most controversially, despite thousands of residents living in temporary accommodation or in overcrowded homes, the council is planning to reduce the number of new homes built for social rent. In future, 60% of new ‘affordable’ housing will be intermediate rent and just 40% will be social housing (it is currently the other way around).
The Council have confirmed that the focus will be on homes for people and families earning from £30,000 to £90,000 per year. The figures Westminster uses put average (median) household income at £42,800 meaning that the majority of new affordable homes being proposed in Westminster will be targeted at those on above average incomes, despite promoting the new policy as being for middle income families.
Labour argues that Westminster needs a balanced approach using public land to deliver vitally needed social housing to tackle overcrowding and homelessness, alongside intermediate homes for those on lower & median incomes, while working with private sector to deliver a broader range of homes for local & key workers of all incomes on land that it owns. The City Plan is right to seek to increase the supply of intermediate housing but it is very wrong to reduce the supply of social housing to pay for it, while the Council leaves millions of pounds of potential grant funding unclaimed and still fails to ensure the private sector pays its fair share.
Westminster has made some progress in the area of restricting building heights though there does still seem to be deliberate wiggle room that could allow buildings of up to 30 storeys. We are also pleased that the ruling Conservative group has adopted many of our proposals to keep Soho special.
We criticise Westminster’s refusal to consider making new developments car-free. The demands for new off-street car parking constrain viability and compromise building design in areas outside the renewal areas. The council should be far more open to car-free development across the city.
Labour will actively consult with local residents to develop a detailed alternative City Plan.
Shadow Cabinet Member for Place Making Geoff Barraclough said:
“The new City Plan is yet another missed opportunity to fix the housing crisis in Westminster and it does little to help the 2,640 families who woke up in temporary accommodation this morning. The Government’s bungled Brexit negotiations put a real question mark over the Council’s headline target of 1,500 new homes a year. Westminster will have to build more social and genuinely affordable homes on itself to meet the needs of local people.
We welcome many practical aspects of the City Plan which have been lifted from Labour’s manifesto including significant restrictions on new skyscrapers and some special protections for Soho but we are disappointed that Westminster still refuses to appoint an independent design panel to advise on major developments.”