Delayed Ilford homes plan risks being scuppered entirely

Plans for more than 200 new homes on an Ilford car park could collapse entirely if Redbridge Council does not start building by this time next year.

In August 2020, the council’s housing developer Redbridge Living applied to build 236 flats in three towers on the Seven Kings Car Park in High Road, Ilford.

The plan was to use the profits to fund community, health and business space on-site but the scheme ran into trouble after the Greater London Authority (GLA) threatened to veto it unless there were more affordable homes.

Further delays ensued when, last September, council leader Jas Athwal announced Redbridge Living would be wound down as construction costs had “shot up”.

According to a report presented to council leaders yesterday, the development is now so delayed that the council risks losing out on a £5.5million grant for affordable housing from the GLA.

The report estimates the £82m development would make a £2.7m loss without the grant, describing it as “a major driver in whether the scheme is viable”.

It continues: “Among the relevant grant conditions are requirements to have secured planning consent, be in contract with a contractor and to have made a start on site before the end of March 2023.

“Should the grant not be forthcoming, it will require further reporting back to cabinet to consider the way forward.”

To meet this tight deadline the design team needs to be “immediately reinstructed” to prepare the application for the planning committee in September this year. Contracts for site preparation and main works will be awarded to companies through a “direct award” instead of open tender so they can begin as soon as possible.

Although the cost of designs so far has not been made public due to commercial sensitivity, cabinet has now agreed a further £1.5m for the next stages.

Last October, the GLA warned the council they would reject the original application because the proposed 35% affordable housing fell short of the 50% threshold required when building on public land.

The council’s head of regeneration Sharon Strutt told the overview & scrutiny committee on March 7 that, to make sure the scheme was “financially viable” after adding affordable homes, the number of three-bed flats was cut from 40 to 25.

She added: “It really is about making sure the building is as efficiently designed as possible so the net internal areas are working and performing as well as possible…. you reduce any kind of areas that are not purposeful spaces.

“It’s quite right that we had to reduce the number of family homes from around 40 to 25. Slimming down that building envelope helps with setting it back a bit, while still making sure we’ve got a really good quality building.”

Proposals for the community, health and business space planned on-site include council services, a library, communal lounge, a GP surgery, co-working spaces and an enforcement hub.

Cllr Athwal commented: “I’m really proud and privileged that we are getting tis once-in-a-generation chance to make sure that, for generations to come, these hubs will be the centre of our communities.”

In the new plans, 42 of the homes will be priced at London Affordable Rent (LAR), with 24 of these homes offering three bedrooms.

LAR is set by the GLA and, for 2022/23, will be  £673.36 a month for a studio or one-bed flat, £712.92 a month for a two-bed and £752.52 for a three-bed.

The remaining flats will be one or two bedrooms, with 35 sold under shared ownership and 159 for private sale.

Conservative deputy leader Howard Berlin commented: “I don’t understand why it’s not viable. What the council is saying is: we’re building on our land and we can’t make any more money, which is very very odd.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter