Redbridge councillors at odds over affordable housing target

Councillors have been warned developers may “walk away” from Redbridge if told to meet the affordable housing target despite working on a major development.

A developer planning to build hundreds of flats on the Harrison Gibson site found a way to meet the 35 per cent target after the planning committee told them to reconsider their plans.

In a meeting on July 16, developer Ilford (Jersey) Ltd insisted it could only provide 12 per cent affordable homes on High Road, Ilford, but presented an updated plan on Thursday September 3.

However, councillors who suggested sending another development with just 22 per cent affordable housing back to the drawing board were voted against and the plans were approved.

The plans, discussed at the same meeting last night, propose building 94 flats, with 18 affordable, in a nine-storey building on High Road, Ilford.

Arguing for sending these plans back, Cllr Vanisha Solanki (Lab, Fullwell) said: “I think we need to send a message to developers that we won’t accept anything below 35 per cent affordable. This is not even meeting our bare minimum.”

Cllr Varinder Singh-Bola (Lab, Cranbrook) agreed: “As we have seen with the previous application, it can reach that (affordable housing target) if there is a will.”

Arguing against deferring, Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) said: “We are absolutely right to want to do all that we can to achieve the 35 per cent target but it should be recalled that it actually is a target.

“I do suspect in this scheme that this is the best we will achieve. We would be remiss to defer it because they could just walk away.

“If we keep making things hard for people they will go spend their money in Croydon or somewhere else.”

Cllr Roy Emmett (Lab, Hainault) agreed the target is “an aim” and “not all schemes can do it”, while Cllr Gurdial Bhamra (Lab, Clayhall) said they had “done a good job” to get 22 per cent”.

Consultant Richard Ashdown, speaking for the applicant, explained factors like the nearby railway and contamination from the site’s previous use for car shows had increased construction costs.

All 18 affordable flats will be offered at London Living Rent, intended for middle-income families, rather than “shared ownership” homes for those intending to move onto the property ladder.

Head of planning Brett Leahy added: “I want to reassure members we do take this very seriously. We have negotiated on this scheme for four years when it comes to affordable housing.”

A previous application for the site offering just 11 per cent affordable housing was rejected.

Cllr Solanki, Cllr Ali, Cllr Duffell and Cllr Singh-Bola voted to send the plans back to the developer but were outnumbered by the rest of the committee.

The majority voted to approve the application, with Cllr Solanki and Cllr Ali voting against and Cllr Singh-Bola abstaining.

The development on the Harrison Gibson site was voted for unanimously by the committee, with members praising the developer and council officers for their hard work to improve the plans.

Regarding this development, Cllr Singh-Bola said: “I am pleased we have managed to secure a fair deal for Redbridge at this iconic site.

“I hope other developers who want to share in Redbridge’s growth and prosperity will take note.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter