Greenwich Council’s controversial plan to sell a park in a polluted part of Greenwich looks set to be compounded as a plan appears to sell the plot to a controversial developer of very small flats.
Pocket Living specialise in flats at the very limit of minimum space standards for new homes, and have the former MP for Greenwich and Woolwich sitting on the board and are supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Greenwich Council have previous links with the developer which I’ve covered extensively in the past, and previously attempted to sell three plots of public land to the company to build at 80 per cent market rate rather than build directly and offer social flats at half that level, or use their Meridian housing company to offer homes at around 60 per cent of market rates.
When they previously proposed selling off public land they did not list all options available when presenting a report to councillors.
Three plots previously listed for sale were reduced to one after a strong number of objections, though Pocket Living still stand to make almost 20 per cent in profit margin on the remaining public plot.
At a proposal in Charlton, flats are as small as 38.5 square metres. National size standards state a home should be at least 39 square metres for a one-bed property with a bath. This gets around that by having a shower instead.
Pocket Living previously encouraged people to write in support at proposed land sales stating in a pre-written email: “Affordable home ownership for local people like me, helping them stay in the communities they grew up in and which stops them having to move out of the area to get on the housing ladder, should be the priority of any council.”
However, away from a dedicated website set up to encourage land sales they had described £90,000 as a “modest income” on their own website and sell one-bed flats for near £400,000.
When people had emailed opposition they received an email from Greenwich Council acknowledging their support.
Letting others profit?
There are arguments against building on a small green space in a polluted area already seeing many new homes built in the area, but even if is developed, why allow a private developer to reap the rewards rather than the authority building and reinvesting income or lowering exposure to expensive private lettings?
Another £4.3 million overspend on housing was revealed just last week. That’s on top of existing extremely high costs. It’s due to a lack of council homes causing the authority to place people in expensive temporary accommodation. The number of people needing emergency housing grew again from 1200 to over 1340 as seen in this council report.
The number of homeless has grown from 700 in 2018 to 1340 in 2020 when previous land sales to Pocket Living were proposed.
Recently the authority have also celebrated new council homes in Plumstead – yet they built just four on a sizeable plot set among mid rises. It barely scratches the surface of demand. Building low numbers on scarce land then sees the argument made that other public sites must be sold.
It’s not easy to build directly though borrowing caps have now been lifted. In addition, the Meridian option permits less restrictive borrowing methods in order to build – so why sell to Pocket Living?
Not to mention that building very small flats isn’t too sensible given what we have just witnessed with self-isolation. Green spaces have also been lifelines to many.
This proposal means local people either lose a green space, or the authority and taxpayers lose income in the mid to long term once the short term capital income is gone. Who benefits?
UPDATE: The current MP Matt Pennycook has come out strongly against plans to sell the land:
I have this morning written to @DanLThorpe urging him to personally intervene to halt the disposal of the Rose Garden on Blackwall Lane and give serious consideration to investing in enhancing this precious green space for the benefit of local residents. pic.twitter.com/Vr0if27CqE
— Matthew Pennycook (@mtpennycook) September 16, 2020