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The Planning Inspector considering Westminster’s new City Plan has struck out the “mixed-use” policy that would have likely generated tens of millions of pounds in contributions to the affordable housing fund over the next five years.

For the last four years, Westminster has had a policy that new commercial developments in the West End must make a contribution to the affordable housing fund. Between 2016 and 2020, Policy S1 has generated total payments over £34m from 28 different developments. The money is used to build or buy new homes to rent to hard-pressed local people on low incomes.

In response to changes in national planning rules which merge all commercial uses into a single category for town planning purposes, Westminster Council changed its “mixed use” policy in the new City Plan. In bad news for residents, the Planning Inspector struck out Westminster’s new policy in its entirety. The Inspector said the Council had failed to demonstrate the linkage between the availability of affordable housing and the success of commercial businesses in the West End.

Councillor Geoff Barraclough, Labour shadow cabinet member for Planning said;

“It’s blindingly obvious that workers need affordable housing with easy access to the hundreds of thousands of jobs in the West End. Now, Westminster’s failure to prepare properly for the Planning Inspector’s examination leaves developers free to build speculative office blocks without making any affordable housing contributions at all. “

He continued:

Despite Covid, the commercial market in the West End is very buoyant.  Westminster’s failure to get approval for its new “mixed use” policy will cost tens of millions of pounds in future contributions to the affordable housing fund over the next five years.”

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