Merton council’s own policy on affordable housing states that where developers propose to build more than 10 dwellings, 40% of those homes should be delivered as affordable housing.
So the proposed Galliard Homes 602-home development for Plough Lane, should include 240 affordable homes. But documents accompanying the AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes application make it clear that a mere 10% affordable homes will be offered – a quarter of what should be the norm.
Why the discrepancy between council policy and development proposal? It’s simple: pure greed.
Who will benefit? Billionaire property development company Galliard Homes and AFC Wimbledon, of course.
Who will lose out? People who are desperate to get on the housing ladder, who work in central London or locally (remember, St George’s Hospital is just a short walk from Plough Lane: it would be the perfect location for vital health service staff to live. If they could afford it.).
The AFC Wimbledon/Galliards application should be refused on these grounds alone, but it’s common practice for developers to cynically manipulate the figures in such a way that they get away with providing minimum or even zero affordable housing. An article in The Guardian recently revealed how developers routinely submit a cleverly manipulated viability assessment to council planners in order to wriggle out of their civic responsibilities on affordable housing.
So what could Galliard Homes’ argument be to justify offering a mere 10% of affordable housing rather than the council’s 40% target? It can’t be that it’s a difficult site to deliver, because their own documents declare that there are lower levels of ground contamination than had been expected (incidentally, contamination levels are among the reasons why Merton’s Labour Party said the site was unsuitable for a school), and they are equally blase about flood risks.
So we can only conclude that Galliard Homes are offering such a paltry level of affordable housing because they are having to help fund League Two AFC Wimbledon’s vanity plan of an initially 11,000-seat stadium with the necessary groundwork that would mean it could easily be almost doubled in size to 20,000 seats at a future date.
Perhaps the developers originally agreed to get into bed with AFCW thinking it would be an easy way to win planning permission for their over-sized housing development with minimal green and communal spaces.
Perhaps if AFC Wimbledon had been happy to make do with a less ambitious stadium more suited to their footballing prowess, Galliard would have been prepared to reduce the scale of the ‘enabling development’, making it more appropriate for the location and a greener, more pleasant place to live.
Perhaps it’s time for Merton’s majority Labour Party to stick to their socialist principles and insist the 40% affordable housing rule is honoured rather than folding before the claims of a housing developer which is, frankly, trying it on.
Similar has happened in the London borough of Newham, where Galliard want to redevelop West Ham’s Upton Park ground for housing. Planning officers recommended the application was deferred while the applicants improved their offer on affordable home provision.
A separate application by Galliard Homes to redevelop Oxford Stadium was refused on grounds including “insufficient affordable homes” (as well as the development being too dense, among other issues).
It would surely be a big help to Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan’s campaign if he could promise a decent amount of affordable housing on this critical site right on the border of his current constituency. As well as cutting the traffic and transport issues that come with the super-sized scheme that is currently on the table.
And one final piece of good news: it turns out that Merton Council IS in favour of holding developers to account over unacceptably low levels of affordable housing. Hurrah!