Murky Depths

News in London and beyond

Erith, Slade Green

Plans submitted for 320 new flats in Erith

To be rebuilt

Arthur Street in Erith is a 1960s estate recently announced as suitable for the chop. Following on from the former Larner Road estate, now re-branded as Erith Park just down the road, we now see comprehensive plans submitted for redevelopment.

Orbit South Housing Association and Wates Residential are behind the scheme. Orbit are the landlord of 4,600 homes across Bexley borough.

Current site

The current site is unloved by many  – though no doubt some tenants will disagree – and a typical estate of its era.

Architecturally losing the estate may not be too controversial, though losing many truly affordable homes will be. The site currently has 263 homes with 254 as social rent – 97% of all homes. Social rent is generally around 40%-50% of market rent and despite what some state is not subsidised.

Under these plans there will be a substantial drop in truly affordable housing under these plans despite an increase of homes across the site. There are no social rent flats included.

  • 121 homes will be “London Affordable Rent” – which can be around 60% market rate. Up to 20% higher than existing homes
  • 58 will be “London Living Rent” – which is higher still and aimed at “middle-income earners”. Annual salary capped at £60k. Far in excess of many living in the area.
  • Shared ownership and private sale comprise the rest

The definition of “affordable” is becoming ever more convoluted; it wouldn’t be to hide the ever increasing cost of renting would it? See the “affordable” new flats planned by Pocket Living on council land across Greenwich borough. They are at 80% market rates and a heavily criticised definition of “affordable” introduced by the coalition government after 2010.

Little commercial space in centre

The planning statement even claims the site has “a mix of social rented homes which does not reflect local need”.

Well, maybe not to Orbit senior staff on very healthy salaries. Less so for those across the area in actual need.

This means people will be either shipped out of London or forced into higher cost rented properties with housing benefit – and taxpayers – forking out the difference. The Housing Benefit bill is already above £23.4 billion a year in the UK.

Imagine if that sum was spent building new homes instead of subsiding landlords and developers.

Planned tenure mix

Location

The site is sandwiched between Northend Road dual carriageway and the Southeastern railway line with low rise housing to the north and south in an area seeing many new homes.

Erith Park to the west has been built with over 600 homes and completes in 2019. The the east, over the railway line, lies the former Linpac Factory. 336 homes approved there.

Erith train station is 0.7 miles to the north with Slade Green station 0.8 miles to the south. Public transport accessibility is rated 1 out of 6.

The current site has tower blocks up to 13 floors in height. This scheme tops out at nine storeys.

Click here to see plans

 

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3 Comments

  1. Caroline Field

    Good Morning Murky!
    I”m Orbit’s head of regeneration and am leading on this project. Thanks for your interest in our plans for Arthur Street. I can understand and share your concern about any loss of affordable rented housing so can I just clarify a few details for your readers. London Affordable Rent (LAR)is a relatively new rent regime instigated by the current Mayor of London. While ‘Affordable Rent’ at 80% of market rate can be substantially more than the old style ‘social rent’., ‘London Affordable Rent’ in the LB Bexley actually works out almost the same as ‘social rent’ and the planning authorities let us treat them as equivalent. Confusion is understandable!

    While London Living Rent and Shared Ownership are open to London households on incomes up to £60k, in Bexley they are sold/rented to households on much lower incomes. At neighbouring Erith Park we’ve been selling/letting to households on under £30k pa. Why aren’t we rebuilding the entire estate as 100% London Affordable Rent? One reason is that we simply can’t afford to. This whole redevelopment is requiring a huge subsidy and LAR requires more than the other tenures so the more we have, the greater the whole.

    The other reason though is probably more important: large monotenure estates aren’t working and are unpopular with our tenants. It was OK when these estate were first built when a wide range of households could access public housing. Now demand so far outstrips demand that most people coming into social rented housing are extremely vulnerable and have complex needs. We’re committed to housing everyone in housing need but it really doesn’ t help anyone to have large ‘ghettoes’ of social housing. We’ve also taken into account that the surrounding area has high measures of social housing, deprivation, worklessness etc. The Erith area desperately needs to attract more economically active households.

    We’re planning the same mix on Arthur Street as we’ve built at Erith Park where it seems to be working well. The London Mayor quite rightly wants to ensure that there’s no net loss of social housing so we’ve got a number of smaller sites in the area which we’re building as LAR so that overall, across our programme, we don’t lose floorspace for the cheaper rented tenures – that’s the homes which are available to people coming through the council-run allocation process. We’ve also bought some street properties as well to make up the difference. Many of these homes have been available in time for people moving out of Arthur Street. This programme of replacement is part of our planning application and the proposal is to tie us in through a planning condition. These ‘programme homes have proved popular with people who don’t want to live on a large estate anymore. They are genuinely additional rented homes – these are nice little sites in good areas which we would otherwise have used for the shared ownership homes which will now be on the new Erith Park.

    As for our existing tenants, we have a legal obligation to ensure they have new housing association tenancies if they want one. We’ve had a support worker helping people to find suitable new properties for two years now. Very few are leaving the borough and these have made a positive choice to take the opportunity to move elsewhere. Obviously moving is disruptive and a small minority would rather not move but most have been delighted to get the opportunity to move away – and there is no ‘no’ campaign.

    Sorry I have gone on a bit but I just wanted to let you know that the issues you (rightly) raise are being addressed and we are here, working on site, with local people, on a project they support. If you, Murky, or any of your readers, want to come and see how we’re regenerating this corner of Erith you’d be very welcome. Just get in touch

    • tony g

      The fact that you’re willing to respond to this shows just how out of touch you are. If this housing estate was in an inner-London borough you’d face far more hostility – how happy you must be that there isn’t ‘a no campaign’, no debate, no true opinion on the future of housing in London. You as a housing association command all the power – don’t pretend these consultations are in anyway representative. Furthermore, your referencing of ‘ghettoised’ neighborhoods and social housing being outdated stinks of New Labour urban policy which is frankly outdated. In addition, it is outrageous that you believe LAR will pick up the pieces – these rents are conditioned by the market – you surely can’t believe that they will provide genuine replacements for social housing. Housing Associations like yourselves are famous for running estates into the ground, creating atmospheres of neglect that fuel urban renewal projects. On a side-note don’t you dare call Murky ‘confused’ – if you hadn’t realised your tone is highly patronising.

  2. fromthemurkydepths

    Many thanks for the comment.

    Regarding this – “‘London Affordable Rent’ in the LB Bexley actually works out almost the same as ‘social rent’ and the planning authorities let us treat them as equivalent. Confusion is understandable!”

    Not confusion – I know there’s a difference but almost the same isn’t exactly the same. A senior staff member at Peabody recently stated LAR as “social housing plus a tenner a week”. £40 a month is a lot to many people.

    And there’s only 121 homes at that more expensive level as opposed to 254 current social rented homes.

    I’ve covered some other Orbit plans and they also lack social homes as well as London Affordable Rent. Could you list all other developments in Erith with LAR that takes the number up to 254 social homes being lost? And even then all those people will be paying more – even if a tenner a week.

    As for shared ownership – it’s not affordable for many with a mortgage (how many will get one on £30k a year?) plus rent plus service charges if Orbit charge all those? Could you clarify whether they will?

    I don’t think many would expect 100% of new homes to be social or even LAR but with a substantial uplift in homes on the site overall a large reduction in truly affordable homes seems hard to justify

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