Islington Council periodically consults its population over its policies and strategies. The response in generally fairly limited, but the Council does take notice of what the public say they want, although this will be constrained by central government policies, the London Plan and their own political position. The Amwell Society is notified of consultations relevant to its purpose and will generally send in a response which supports its objectives and reflects the views of its membership as far as this is possible. This webpage will summarise the latest consultation document and the Amwell Society’s response.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING SMALL SITES CONTRIBUTIONS – August 2012
One of the most important policies in Islington’s Core Strategy is the provision of affordable housing. The urgent need for more housing is also recognised in the Mayor’s London Plan. Consequently the Council is driving a hard bargain over residential developments. As one of its planning obligations Islington requires that developers of residential properties make at least 50% of any new housing development of 10 units and over affordable, which means they will be either socially rented or part owned. They must be on the same site as the private units. Where there are less than 10 units the developer will be required to provide a financial contribution towards affordable housing provision elsewhere in the borough.
The Council has used the National Planning Policy Framework to justify the imposition of this charge, and has undertaken a study which examines the level of financial contribution that would be likely to be viable for a large majority of developments. They are concerned that the delivery of the supply of housing should not be threatened by this further planning obligation, and believe that they have evidence that their charges will not undermine the viability of future residential developments. They expect developers to be able to pay £50,000 per unit in the north and middle of the borough, and £60,000 per unit south of the Pentonville Road. They considered that £80,000 might be possible for some units, but wanted to keep their charges simple and uncontentious.
The Amwell Society supports the provision of affordable housing and believes in the benefits of mixed communities, ie having affordable and private housing in close proximity. We also believe that property developers who are making a lot of money from the high house prices in Islington should contribute to the provision of affordable housing. However, in response to the consultation on the level of charging the Amwell Society expressed the view that imposing a charge on an invividual house owner who wanted to convert part of their own home to a separate housing unit without wishing to sell or rent it, perhaps for their offspring or a parent, would probably be put off from doing so.
COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY – July 2012
The Community Infrastructure Levy is a charge which the Council is allowed to make on all new developments in the area in order to raise funds to provide infrastructure support to enable the development to go ahead. This might mean providing new roads and transport, or local amenities such as a park, community centre, health centre or waste management systems. The charges are based on the size and type of the new development and are determined by the charging authority, in this case Islington. The Mayor of London is also able to impose his own CIL, but this is mainly used for major transport schemes and cross borough developments. It is envisaged that CIL will replace “Section 106” agreements except in cases where there is need for a site specific mitigation of the impact of the development. Islington Council also intends to use Section 106 to fund affordable housing as CIL cannot be used for this purpose.
Islington planners have predicted a significant increase in the population and employment density in the borough over the next 15 years, and its 2011 Core Strategy identifies a future need for new and improved open, green and play spaces, and infrastructure improvements to education, healthcare, sport and leisure, and enhanced community facilities and utilities, and emergency services. The Council has identified how much money will be required to meet these needs, the funding that is available from other sources and the funding gap which could be filled by CIL. However, the regulations state that the charging authority must strike a balance between the desirability of CIL being used to supply sufficient funds to provide the infrastructure needed, and the economic viability of the developments in its area. If the levy is too high then the developments will not go ahead.
In July 2012 the Council undertook a consultation exercise concerning its charging schedule for CIL. The Council is proposing to charge variable rates which are aligned to the viability and value of the uses of the developments; higher rates will be levied on student accommodation, hotels, residential and retail developments and lower rates for leisure and assembly purposes. For example student accommodation will be charged at £450 per square meter and office space South of the Pentonville Road £150 per square meter. Uses which are much less viable such as industrial, storage and distribution and community uses will not be charged. Even so CIL will not make up the full deficit in funding needed.
The Amwell Society expressed the view that the current infrastructure in the area was sufficient. In the future, depending on the nature of the development, we would need more provision for cyclists and pedestrians rather than motorist as the public transport system was very good. If more people were to come to live in the area then the education and health services would need to be increased, as well as open space and leisure facilities. The danger with charging too high a levy is not that developments would not go ahead, but that the developers would cut back on the quality of their buildings or pass the increased cost on to their customers, rather than reduce their profits. Residential developments will also have to pay a contribution to affordable housing, so the developers are being squeezed which is leading to smaller and more densly packed units. Student accommodation is being hardest hit by the levy which will lead to higher rents for students, many of whom can probably ill afford them.