Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Developer of immense Walthamstow towers skirts affordable housing rule

The developer of the Mall towers is paying £4million less than housing requirements dictate

Hero for Developer of immense Walthamstow towers skirts affordable housing rule
An artist's impression of the flats being built in Walthamstow town centre

A developer building two immense towers in Walthamstow town centre is paying £4million less than it should be towards affordable housing.

According to the Greater London Authority (GLA), 35% of 538 flats being built at 17&Central - formerly the Mall - should be affordable.

In the "limited circumstances" where meeting this minimum is "not practical", the GLA lets developers pay councils an equivalent sum to build affordable housing elsewhere.

In January, Capital & Regional's (C&R) plan to provide just 99 affordable flats, plus a £7.3m sum to Waltham Forest Council, won planning permission.

This sum is four percent - or £4.1m - less than what would meet the 35% requirement, with a discount agreed due to the project's "high build costs".

Despite this, the GLA - who check all developments in London meet its planning rules - approved the £200m scheme in May this year.

Part of the shopping centre will be demolished to make way for the towers

Nancy Taaffe, of campaign group Save our Square, which has devoted itself to fighting the development, expressed disappointment in both local councillors and the mayor.

She said: “Private property developers are allowed into our borough to make profits for their own pockets; they are given councillors’, then the mayor’s blessing to construct flats that are 'unaffordable'.

“It’s madness, they are using housing as an investment bank. It’s more like the generation of profits, not regeneration of the Square!

“They might well throw the council a few crumbs to deal with council housing - as long as it’s off-site and far away from their development!”

Read more: Walthamstow Mall towers too tall to be green, expert argues

In order to secure its discount, C&R submitted a document known as a Financial Viability Assessment (FVA), that estimated it would earn a low profit from the scheme.

Despite approving the scheme, the GLA said it “did not agree with” the figures in the FVA after its planning officers had “robustly scrutinised” them.

Their report adds: “However, we have concluded that the offer is the maximum viable amount of affordable housing the scheme could provide.”

The report accepts that any more than 99 affordable flats on-site would be "difficult to accommodate and effectively manage".

It also accepted that financial "challenges", such as "high build costs", the lower value of Walthamstow property and a “relatively costly” basement, justified C&R's discount.

C&R may still have to contribute more for affordable housing when Waltham Forest Council reviews the construction costs at earlier and later stages of the build.

It has also agreed to pay £1.5million towards a new step-free entrance to Walthamstow Central station, although this is dependent on millions of pounds in funding from cash-strapped TfL.

A GLA spokesperson said: “All schemes are expected to maximise the delivery of affordable homes, however it is acknowledged that not all schemes are capable of reaching this target.

“Viability testing for this scheme found that the affordable housing offer was the maximum level of affordable housing that could be delivered. 

“The viability assessments consider numerous factors, including the allowance for a reasonable return of profits for the developer."

A copy of the FVA will reportedly be made available to the Local Democracy Reporting Service later this week.