Earlier this month London mayor Boris Johnson approved a planning application for the 250 City Road scheme in north London.The project, comprising two tower blocks of 42 and 36 storeys and four lower-rise blocks, was originally rejected by the local planning authority, the London Borough of Islington, which raised objections mainly relating to the rent levels on the affordable housing element of the scheme.
Hugh Bullock, senior partner and head of planning and development at consultancy Gerald Eve, acted on behalf of Berkeley, and explains the case made to the mayor.
London is facing a significant shortfall in new homes. Was that a factor in your presentation to the mayor?
Forecasts for London show a 23 per cent increase in population, and a 17.6 per cent increase in jobs, by 2036. London already faces a housing crisis which will continue for the foreseeable future. Creating more homes, especially affordable ones, is urgent. The scheme would deliver both family sized and smaller homes. Many people need a small home in which to start. The proposed studios would meet the London Plan space standards. They provide cheaper homes for the private market.
What environmental standards are planned for the scheme?
The environmental credentials of the scheme include substantial carbon savings and a very high standard of both sustainable design and construction fully supported by the Berkeley Homes Vision 2020 initiative. All homes will achieve Code Level 4 and commercial spaces will be BREEAM Excellent. The applicant is working closely with the Borough to ensure that connection to the Bunhill Decentralised Energy Network can be achieved.
How did you go about making the case for the amount of affordable housing in the development?
The financial analysis shows that, on the basis of today’s costs and values, the affordable housing yield would be negligible. By introducing more development risk and using a financial growth model, the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing provision could be increased and justified at 19 per cent. Given the exceptional circumstances of the site and the need to release capital and holding costs, (combined with a commitment to substantially implement the project within two years), Berkeley Homes agreed to take on even greater developer risk of reduced returns, beyond that justified by the growth model. Berkeley offered 30 per cent affordable housing including target rent levels.
What other factors did you highlight in order to explain the project?
It is an excellent design, responding to the scale, and the complexity of the site. It would successfully complete the City Road Basin redevelopment. The scheme would deliver a substantial new public park of over half a hectare, in an area of deficiency within the borough. This would benefit both new residents and existing Islington residents alike. The proposal would also create a vibrant place, including shops, cafés, restaurants and spaces, with a health facility, crèche and high quality hotel.