Murky Depths

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Greenwich borough, Southwark borough

Southwark commit £700k Section 106 to estate this week – shame about Greenwich

Courtesy Google

Southwark Council have this week agreed to spend £700,000 improving estates including playing areas for children utilising income from developers – one night after Greenwich Councillors were again told it is not possible to do so.

Area already far better than majority of Greenwich estates

In Southwark councillors agreed the spending with a council report claiming:

“Funding the measures to improve play provisions will improve the development
of children within the area. It will also help to motivate children to participate in
physical activity which can only benefit in a number of different ways including
mental health.”

“The redevelopment and improvement of existing council play facilities would
also help to visually improve the area. New equipment, facilities and ideas
would brighten the community atmosphere and encourage residents and
children to engage within these new spaces.”

Courtesy Google. Entrance to shopping parade on Abbey Wood estate

This is miles from anything we see in Greenwich reports when it comes to spending money.

Just 24 hours before Southwark agreed the spend, a 28-floor tower was approved in Greenwich opposite a neglected estate which has seen new builds on all sides – and many more in the area now going up.  Just £7,500 was committed to public realm, and that is likely to be on the actual site itself. £129,550 was committed to GLLaB.

No improvements here soon

The estate seems all but ignored once again. When a councillor enquired why so little, if anything, is going towards the estate, they were told it was not possible to use Section 106 income to improve the local area as it needed to be “site-specific” – a line which has been used for many years. Never mind that many new residents could use newly created space on the estate as well as walk through to reach public transport links.

Southwark Council agreed allocating £700,000 in Section 106 payments from the Chambers Wharf development on “delivery of play area improvements within the Dickens Estate”.

From Southwark report

While it is true the Southwark scheme predates reforms to S106 it doesn’t preclude using S106 money being used now if pooled. Greenwich are also not using it’s part-successor – the Community Infrastructure Levy – to any great degree. Their arguments about it not being possible date back many years, before reforms were made.

Estates & parks ignored

Another example (and there’s many) is seen at Abbey Wood estate. A developer of a block on Eynsham Drive will pay £1,259,415.31 to the authority yet not a penny for the neighbouring estate was allocated after council officers had negotiated with the developer.

Abbey Wood Eynsham Drive scheme. Much income to Greenwich but little to be spent in local area

The developer then went above and offered a token £50,000 that Greenwich hadn’t even asked for.

Abbey Wood estate centre has seen much better days – yet huge potential

GLLaB is getting £401,927.

The authority do allocate small sums using the Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy which has been branded as the Greenwich Neighbourhood Fund. This is a legal requirement and Greenwich have capped spending at £30,000 per project. It does great work but doesn’t go far. Work on the scale of Southwark’s £700,000 is beyond reach.

Much of Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy is unspent. Totals at the end of 2019 were £2.2 million from S106 and £3,494,119.84 from CIL income.

Failing to look out and learn

It’s long been said Greenwich borough departments live in an insular bubble and fail to seek best practice from the rest of London.  Just yesterday I covered a report that will be presented to cllrs next week from council officers that states money from Right to Buy can only be spent on buying market homes or has to be returned to Government.

That’s despite other London councils using it to partner with housing associations. To give one example, Hackney Council used £370,000 to convert six flats being built by a Housing Association and due to be let at 80 per cent market rates into social homes. In Greenwich that amount is buying one home off the market – and pushing out buyers.

Meridian Homes notable by its absence on list of options

Remember the Pocket Living sale? When options for public land were presented to councillors, using the authority’s own developer Meridian Homes wasn’t even on the list of available options. Nor was partnering with a Housing Association. Selling to Pocket Living to build very small box-flats at 80 per cent market rent was chosen.

All the while homelessness rises sharply. Greenwich Council may complain about central Government housing policy, and correctly in my view, but are they using anywhere near enough of the powers they do have? Why aren’t they learning from across London in a whole range of areas when it comes to housing and income?

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Ashley

    It’s shocking to see how this council squanders funds like S106 and CIL on petty wasteful projects such as GLLAB. It’s absolute scandalous. Scrap GLLAB and spend this beneficial funds on our Estates, Public spaces and Public Realm.

    Yet again, Council failings by this administration.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      GLLaB doesn’t need scrapping as it does good work. A fairer distribution of money to priority areas is needed. How GLLaB gets so much of the pie each and every time is what needs reform.

  2. Graham

    I thought right to buy money from the sale of Council and Houisng Associations homes went towards building new council and houisng association homes ??? I am sure it used to when the scheme was originally introduced. I have friends who purchased their homes back in the 1990’s from Greenwich Council.

    I also thought if you sold on a right to buy property with in 3 or 5 years of purchasing it you had to give your landlord first refusal to purchase the property back or agree to re-pay all or some of the discount back to the Council or Housing Association you purchased the property from.

    Your were also not allowed to buy a right to buy property as a buy to rent I believe.

    If your going to spend £350,000 to £400,000 on one home you could build a small block of flats or small bloack of terrace houses to reduce the housing waiting list.

    Buying one home at market value does seem a hugh waste of public money.

    • Not so. Most of the money from right to buy sales went to the government and local authorities were specifically prevented from using the remainder to replace social housing stock.

      Mrs Thatcher wanted to turn the nation into homeowners and right to buy allowed the better off ‘working class’ tenant a sideways move into the private sector at a greatly discounted figure.

      With the relentless upward trajectory of house prices, the people who bought early and held on the longest, saw fantastic returns on their initial stake – https://www.kisbridgingloans.co.uk/finance-news/hundreds-of-ex-council-tenants-are-now-property-millionaires/

    • fromthemurkydepths

      In the 1980s no money was retained by councils from sales. Now the majority is (the Treasury take around 20% for admin) but spend is limited to 30% of any new build development so partnerships are needed or buying off the market is used.

      It’s run its course and needs scrapping. Losing social homes is costing huge sums to all taxpayers as people housed in expensive private rentals instead of social homes due to the severe shortage.

  3. Roy Tindle

    A few years back, a Just Space (https://justspace.org.uk/) colleague and I met with a Greenwich planner to discuss the Master Plans. When we referred to the London Plan, she confessed that she had not heard of it! Not part of the UK, let alone London.

  4. CDT

    Property prices have risen whether your in social housing or a owner occupier the value of your property would have gone up in price since 2000.

    I personally have always remained a social housing tenant and could not afford to buy a property back in the 1990’s in 2000 or now twenty years later.

    I would like to see the money spent from right to buy going back in to social housing to build new affordable rented homes and maintain the existing housing stock to bring the homes up to a decent standard.

    As not all council properties were upgraded under the decent homes scheme a couple of years back.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      The average cost of a house compared to average wage has increased massively since the 1990s which is the best method of comparison. It was 4-5 times the average wage in the 1990s, and many decades before on average. It grew substantially in the 2000s until the crash and a factor in said event. Bubbles burst. Now it’s 10-15+ times average wages after govt intervened with props to support developers with the same result as seen before the crash.

  5. mollierose8

    Murky Depths, Would you consider doing an article on Julian Assange, award winning journalist incarerated in Belmarsh Prison and has served his bail violation but is still kept in solitary cofinement. Apologies for asking here.

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