In a tale which may not be as old as time, but is at least as old as London's housing crisis, the plans for a huge new housing development have mysteriously changed from "mixed" to "segregated".
The Battersea Power Station development, currently under construction around the preserved carcass of the power station itself, was originally planned as a multi-income devleopment. Yes, there would be luxury flats; but there would also be 581 affordable homes across the site. These cheaper homes would be built at later phases in the long development project.
However, according to the Evening Standard's Homes and Property section, new plans submitted to Wandsworth council contain a rather different layout. Instead of mixing the two price points together, the lion's share of the affordable homes will now be built at a different site, around 100m from the edge of the original development, and right next to a railway line. Here's a diagram from the council's website: phase 4A represents the main block of affordable homes:
While this move has a distinct ring of the hated poor door to it, the situation isn't quite that simple. Plans for the Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known by the sexier title "super sewer") and the Northern line extension have set back construction on the Battersea Power Station development as a whole. That means that later stages – like those affordable homes – would be delayed by a few extra years.
The developer, Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), has said that this is the reason why most of the affordable homes have been moved to a new site. Under these new plans, they should be ready for use by 2019, while the development as a whole (including the remaining 200 or so affordable homes) won't be done until 2025. The five blocks on the affordable site will contain over 370 homes; these will be either rented out at subsidised prices to those priced out of the rental market, or sold to first-time buyers.
Rob Tincknell, head of the BPSDC, noted in a planning submission document:
When it became apparent that construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel would delay delivery of affordable housing, we were immediately asked by our shareholders to develop an alternative strategy to deliver our committed affordable housing.
To be fair to the man, we sort of see his point. But the furore (to give you a flavour, the Evening Standard headlined its piece "Battersea poor station") highlights the difficulties in prioritising affordable homes. If mixed developments take longer and are harder to achieve, should we wait around for them? Or should we take any affordable developments we can, even if they're segregated from other housing types?
Wandsworth council's affordable housing policy is relatively pragmatic on this topic. It states (emphasis ours):
For avoidance of doubt, the Council’s preferred method of delivery is through on-site provision [of affordable homes in new developments]. However, in the event the council agree that on-site provision is not viable or suitable and/or the affordable housing would be better secured off site on an alternative site, then the council will consider the affordable housing to be delivered off site through identification of an alternative site.
At least Battersea's block isn't far from the main development – and at least it's happening in the first place.
UPDATE 6/8: A BPSDC spokesperson has sent us a statement, saying they don't agree that the development has changed from mixed to segregated, as
Through these proposals, affordable homes would now be in three areas across the site rather than the two areas in the consented masterplan.
BPSDC also points out that the Standard did not contact them for comment, and that the quotes from Tincknell were taken from a planning submission document - he did not speak to the publication directly. We have edited our piece to reflect this.