Sunday, 7 August 2016

Kingsland Fire Station - planning application

In 2014, the Boris Johnson decided that his austerity policies meant that a number of fire stations across London should be closed.  The Kingsland Road fire station in De Beauvoir was one such fire station.

The local Labour Party protested against the closure because we feared that response times would increase, putting lives in De Beauvoir at risk.

In October 2015, it was announced that the site would become a free school, the "Hackney New Primary School.  An application for planning permission for a school, with 68 flats above it, was submitted in July.  None of those homes will be for rental at a social rent or to be sold by way of shared ownership.

We're in a housing crisis, in which people from Hackney can't afford to live in Hackney.  Some would say it's a housing emergency.

Whatever terminology we use, we need developments that include substantial numbers of homes that people in Hackney can afford to live in.

That's why we've submitted the following response to the consultation on the application for planning permission for the 68 flats for private sale above the proposed new primary school:


I am writing in relation to planning application 2016/2207 (Former Kingsland Fire Station 333 Kingsland Road Hackney London E8 4DR).

In particular, I take issue with the characterisation of the development as "an enabling development, with revenues generated by 68 residential units and 298 sqm of retail space being applied to cross-subsidise the creation and fitting out of the new school" (see page 1 of the viability assessment).  

On the same page there is the following statement: "The planning application focuses on the creation of a new, two-form entry primary school for 5-11 year olds at Hackney New Primary School (HNPS)."

Having looked further into the economics of this development, I consider that a second focus of the application to be the generation of a sizeable profit for the partners to this venture, primarily the people behind the Hackney New Primary School (who I understand to be the same people behind the Hackney New School "free school") and the Benyon Estate.

In Hackney, we currently have more than 2,600 of our residents living in temporary accommodation, mostly in largely unsuitable hostel accommodation.  Our largest hostel is the next building on Kingsland Road to the north of the former fire station.  Residents are being forced to leave private sector accommodation because it has become unaffordable for even those living on an average (median) London salary of £30,000.  In this context, granting planning permission for a block of flats solely for private sale is entirely inappropriate.

I am very surprised by the idea that the flats to be built above the proposed primary school are intended merely to finance the construction of a primary school (even taking into account any reimbursement of the Education Funding Agency).  It seems to me that the applicants will make a substantial profit on this development and that appropriate planning contributions will not be delivered.

In light of this, granting the planning permission for this development would be contrary to the Council's political direction and its planning policies, as I seek to explain below:

Hackney Labour manifesto 2014
In 2014, the Hackney Labour manifesto claimed that "we will do whatever we can to tackle the housing crisis".  Allowing blocks of flats to be built in which local people cannot afford to live is not tackling the housing crisis and not dealing with its effects in the borough.  

Hackney's Sustainable Community Strategy 2008-2018
In Hackney's Sustainable Community Strategy 2008-2018, we say that:
  • we have as a priority to "promote mixed communities in well-designed neighbourhoods, where people can access high quality, affordable housing";  
  • an outcome of our planning policy should be to "promote and maintain mixed, sustainable communities in all our neighbourhoods by securing a tenure and dwelling mix, including affordable homes and homes adaptable for people’s changing needs";
  • "our approach is to provide quality, affordable homes for all income groups"; and
  • "Hackney’s Local Development Framework requires private sector housing projects and our estate renewal programmes to provide a range of mixed tenure homes for households with a wide range of incomes, including affordable housing for rent and for sale".
In the State of the Borough report conducted and published in 2013, it was clear that over the five years since the Sustainable Community Strategy was adopted, the need for affordable housing had become the most important factor for residents for our planning policy.  In the three years since that report, residents' concerns about the affordability of housing in Hackney have sky-rocketed.

Allowing a tower block to be built containing no social or shared-ownership housing would be to create a middle-class ghetto, not a mixed, sustainable community.  The current application is for a development of housing that is affordable only to people with high incomes and/or who are fortunate enough to have accumulated considerable wealth.  As a result, to allow this development as it is described in the application would clearly run counter to our Sustainable Community Strategy.

Hackney's Core Strategy
The Council's Core Strategy Policy 20, on affordable housing, contains the following statements:
  • "Affordable housing will be sought from residential-only developments and mixed use developments incorporating residential use.
  • "On site provision of affordable housing will always be sought in the first instance."
  • "Affordable housing will be sought on all developments comprising 10 residential units or more. New housing should seek to meet a borough-wide affordable housing target of 50% of all units subject to site characteristics, location and overall scheme viability."
  • "In line with identified need and as a borough wide guide the required tenure split of affordable housing will be 60% social rented and 40% Intermediate (by unit). On individual sites the exact tenure split will be guided by up to date assessments of specific local housing need and site and neighbourhood characteristics. On individual development sites, the exact tenure split will be guided by up to date assessments of local housing need and site or neighbourhood characteristics."
The emphasis in the quotations above is on a consistently-applied policy of requiring substantial levels of affordable housing from private developments and the precise level will depend upon an assessment of specific local housing need.  In De Beauvoir and across Hackney, that need is massive and extraordinarily pressing.  The above are very clear policy statements that we will require new developments to have at least 50% of the homes contained in them as affordable.  In the middle of a housing crisis, it is plainly inappropriate for 0% of the homes in this development to be affordable to local residents.

The value of the homes
I attach a number of screenshots of flats either on the market or having recently been sold within a few tens of metres of the former fire station [those screenshots were taken from Right Move and Zoopla].  These are either 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom flats.

The 2-bedroom flats have sold or are on the market for £650,000 or more.  From brief research on Zoopla and Right Move, this is relatively low for the area.  The 3-bedroom flat in the adjacent block is being marketed for £1,450,000.

If each of the proposed 2-bedroom flats in the proposed development were to sell for £650,000, this would generate over £20,000,000.

If each of the three 3-bedroom properties proposed in the development sell for over £1,000,000 each, they will net over £3,000,000 in total.  This is entirely possible and probably a very conservative estimate, given that the application drawings show that they will be penthouse-style flats at the top of a much taller building and each will have a spacious, roof-top terrace.

New one-bedroom flats in the area are being marketed mostly for more than £400,000, so their sale is likely to raise over £14,000,000. 

I am unable to guess how much the sale of the commercial units on the ground floor would generate but, on the basis of the calculations above, it is likely that the sale of just the 68 flats will generate well over £37,000,000.  This contrasts with £16,000,000 for acquiring the land acquisition (see the applicants' viability report) and around £6,000,000 for building the school, with construction costs (without land costs) of around £80,000 per flat (as I understand is broadly industry-standard).  This would mean that the total cost of construction would be around £28,000,000.  This would leave a very considerable profit for the free school trust, Benyon Estate and (maybe) the Education Funding Agency (although it is not clear whether the Agency requires full reimbursement of that money.).

These are very crude figures intended to illustrate the point that, even if a school is being built, it seems to me that the developers will make a large profit from the development.  Instead of that happening, we should apply the clear statements cited above from our planning policies, and we should require considerable social and shared-ownership housing to be included in the development.

I am worried that this planning application is a commercial development, masquerading as a social development and that, as such, it makes insufficient contribution to the community in a time of dire straits for Hackney's residents in terms of housing.

Once it is built, people in De Beauvoir will ask me how much social and shared ownership accommodation is in the development, i.e., how much housing is in it that locals can afford to live in.  Hackney's Planning Authority must ensure that a fair proportion of the homes in this building are affordable for Hackney's residents.  By "fair", I mean "high".  We cannot allow those putting up free schools and the Benyon Estate to make a big profit on a prime piece of land, which used to be occupied by a fire station until closed by the previous Mayor of London, without that land being used to mitigate the housing emergency in which we find ourselves.  To allow that big profit to be made without homes being provided for ordinary people in Hackney would be a travesty, a mockery of the Council's policies and an insult to those people throughout the borough (but particularly in the Metropolitan Hostel on Kingsland Road) who are forced to live in desperately over-crowded and unsuitable accommodation.

I very much hope that this application will be referred to a planning sub-committee and that the sub-committee inquires very closely into the viability of this development, demanding considerable amounts of social and shared-ownership housing, in addition to the construction of a primary school.

With regards,

Cllr. James Peters
De Beauvoir ward
020 8356 3373"

If you would also like to submit a response to the consultation, you can do so through the application page or by e-mailing


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