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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Plans to build 80 new homes unanimously rejected due to zero ‘affordable’ housing

Plans to build 80 flats in East London were unanimously rejected on Tuesday evening (16 April) because the developer hadn't offered any 'affordable' housing in what one councillor said was the 'worst application' he had ever seen.

The current site, which is where a church exists. Image: Google Street View

Mazel Estates Ltd had applied for planning permission with Newham Council so it could demolish a church in Plaistow, home to Glory House Church International, and build 80 self-contained flats ranging from three to six storeys tall.

The plans also included building a community space for Helping Hands, a local charity run by the Society of St. Francis which supports the homeless, those with mental health issues and the elderly.

Of the 80 flats, 35 would be one-beds, 12 would be two-beds and 33 would would be three-beds however, not one of them planned to be ‘genuinely affordable’ housing and would be for private sale only.

Previous plans for the site had been refused by the council because of a lack of ‘affordable’ housing and the proposed height of the flats were seen as ‘overbearing, bulky and incongruous’.

The plans, which were submitted by Mazel Estates in February 2021, came back with an offer to provide 10 flats (12.5per cent) that would be London Affordable Rent, a type of intermediate rent which is aimed at households on low incomes.

How the development planned to look, which is located at Tabernacle Avenue in Plaistow. Image: Newham Council planning documents

The council’s strategic development committee proceeded to grant Mazel Estates planning permission and a s106 legal agreement had been signed.

A decision was issued in February 2023 detailing this, however the plans had still not been implemented and Mazel Estates submitted a new application because according to its agent it could no longer afford its offer on providing 10 London Affordable Rent homes.

During a strategic development committee meeting last night, Cllr Rachel Tripp found it ‘deeply troubling’ that no affordable housing was planned.

Cllr Tripp, who was chairing the meeting, said: “It is impossible to overstate how important ‘genuinely affordable’ family homes are to the people of Newham.

Cllr John Morris said: “I am deeply shocked by this application, it is perhaps the worst application I have ever seen in my entire experience in the [strategic development committee].”

The plans had been recommended for refusal by planning officers because some of the information in the application had not been updated from previous planning stages from up to six years ago.

Planning officers said the plans should also be rejected as there will no longer be any affordable housing and said there had been a lack of pre-application engagement.

Neither Mazel Estates or NTA Planning were present during the meeting.

On the day of the planning meeting (16 April), NTA Planning LLP wrote a letter on behalf of Mazel Estates urging the committee to defer the plans as they argued they had been bought forward ‘prematurely’ and accused the council’s planning officers of being ‘unreasonable’.

NTA Planning wrote: “… we consider that this application has been brought forward to the committee prematurely, reflected in the fact that there has been no engagement between the applicants and the planning officers on the merits of the proposals, since the application was validated in January.

“The applicants request a deferral of this item to allow the applicants and officers to properly engage on this application… and have offered an extension of time to allow appropriate discussions to take place, however this has been declined by planning officers.”

Cllr Morris hit back at the letter, and said: “…there’s assumptions in the letter that our officers haven’t been doing their due diligence when in fact from my personal experiences our officers are quite amazing in engaging with applicants and guiding them through the application process.

“So this seems like an exception which leads me to suspect that there’s no validity behind it.”

Planning officer, Liam McFadden said: “…we could drag this out for as long as we like, but if the applicant is never going to meet the 12.5pc [affordable housing], there doesn’t seem like there’s any real public benefit in lengthening out that process.”

Cllr Tripp said 12.5pc of the development being affordable was still ‘a very small proportion’ and did not represent the ‘kind of proportion that we’re really looking for’.

Cllr Madeleine Sarley Pontin said: “The consistent factor in all of this lack of engagement is the applicant.

“I think they’ve just tripped themselves up by trying to claim and be defensive saying that it’s the officers’ fault when they haven’t consulted the police, the energy strategy, Transport for London and they haven’t consulted current Greening plans – basically everything is out of date.”

The committee then moved to the vote, and the plans were unanimously rejected.

NTA Planning has been contacted for comment.

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