Council defends record after large schemes fail to add up
The borough is on track to meet its affordable housing targets, Waltham Forest Council claims, despite several big schemes this year falling far below them.
Data released to the Echo shows that just over half of all new homes built in the borough since the adoption of a new housing plan were designated ‘affordable’ – either for shared ownership, discounted rent, or social rent.
The Waltham Forest Local Plan, adopted by the council in March 2012, set an affordable housing target of 50 percent for all new homes built in the borough. Council data shows that of 3,708 new homes built since the plan’s adoption, 1,869, or 50.4 percent, were designated as affordable housing.
The housing data from the council was sent to the Echo following our analysis of planning permissions granted over the same period, which showed that the council’s planning committee was consistently approving schemes that fell well short of the 50 percent target. This analysis showed that just 26.3 percent of homes in large housing schemes granted planning permission since March 2012 were ‘affordable’.
Explaining the discrepancy between the low number of affordable homes granted planning approval against the much higher number of completed affordable homes, a council spokesperson said: “Final numbers can differ due to things like viability re-assessments, which means that the level of affordable housing on a new development can increase after planning permission has been granted.
“According to figures we provide to the Greater London Authority, 1,869 completed housing units in Waltham Forest were affordable, which is 50.4 per cent of all units completed over this period.
“Therefore we would have to strongly disagree that the council was only halfway to meeting its own affordable housing quota during this time.
“The council remains committed to increasing the amount of affordable housing available in the borough, through our own home-building programme and our work with private developers.”
A series of major housing schemes in Waltham Forest have recently been granted planning permission despite offering affordable housing quotas far below the 50 percent target. They include a 300-home development at 97 Lea Bridge Road in Leyton, approved by the council in July with developer Hill offering an affordable housing quota of just 20.7 percent, and a 473-home development at South Grove in Walthamstow, granted planning permission in May despite Hadley Property Group pledging to make just 21 percent of the new homes affordable.
A few weeks ago the Echo reported that three of the largest housing schemes within the borough’s new ‘housing zone’ around Blackhorse Lane in Walthamstow – Mandora, Webbs Industrial Estate, and Ferry Lane – had won planning approval with affordable housing quotas of just 12, 11 and 12 percent respectively. Developers at Ferry Lane have since won planning permission for a new 440-home scheme with more affordable housing; 25 percent.
None of the above mentioned developments have yet been included in the council’s data, because none have finished construction. The Waltham Forest Local Plan states that in cases where large schemes offer less than 50 percent affordable housing “they will need to demonstrate a viability case, in the form of a viability assessment”. But viability assessments are not usually made public unless under special circumstances – such as in 2012 when the council was forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office to justify Walthamstow Stadium’s demolition.
Waltham Forest’s demand for affordable housing is deemed to be “high” with three-and-a-half times as many people needing an affordable home as there are homes planned to be built. The council’s social housing waiting list, which last year topped 15,000 people, was the sixth highest in London in 2015; only Camden, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth and Newham had longer waiting lists in the capital.