Mayor responds to comments on Britannia site application
Our proposals to build a brand new leisure centre, new school and hundreds of homes near Shoreditch Park hit the headlines this week because Anthology, one of our development partners on the nearby Colville Estate where we are delivering more than 500 genuinely affordable homes, submitted a letter of objection.
Hackney needs improved leisure provision, more school places and thousands of new homes. I’m proud that, despite a lack of government funding, our Council is finding innovative ways to keep investing in our communities, ensuring current and future generations have access to high-quality facilities.
The comments from Anthology are just some of many we have received. Contrary to reports, they were not leaked, they were publicly available like all the representations the application has received along with the associated planning documents.
Throughout this project there have been many consultations, public meetings and opportunities for people and organisations to share their views. We want to maximise the feedback and engagement from all stakeholders. All the representations received have been carefully considered and further information is being collated to address issues raised. This will be submitted to the Local Planning Authority this month and, of course, be subject to further consultation.
For commercial reasons we haven’t so far been able to publish the viability assessment in full, but we are expecting to do so this month, a degree of transparency you won’t see from most private developers and something I have been committed to from the start. Again, contrary to the story some like to tell, this project hasn’t been shrouded in secrecy. It’s just been subject to standard planning processes.
I fully understand that building new infrastructure on this scale comes with challenges – it’s a balancing act, you can’t please everyone, compromises have to be made, people often don’t like change or new developments near them, and it’s regularly clouded by external misinformation.
There are complex technical issues which take time to explain. A common question is why there isn’t 50% affordable housing, as is the general ‘starting point’ policy for new developments. The amount and mix of housing we’re proposing – 81 homes for Council social rent and shared ownership, and up to 400 for sale at market rate – is because we need the income from the homes for sale to help fund the rest of the development. It’s the compromise which means we get a much-needed new leisure centre and new school.
We don’t get any money from government for new leisure facilities or social housing, and we haven’t been given enough funding to pay for a new school of the quality Hackney’s children deserve. The 400 homes are what we think will be required to pay enough of the costs so the Council can cover the rest. And they’re not ‘luxury flats’ as some proclaim, but they will of course be of good quality.
We know many people are fond of the current leisure centre, which would only close once the new leisure centre opens on neighbouring land. However, the fact is it’s becoming increasingly expensive to patch-up and maintain and simply doesn’t deliver the standard of provision Hackney’s diverse communities expect, need and deserve now and in the future. We’re proposing a leisure centre which will be better in almost every way and preserve the family friendly elements that we all love.
The Council acting as developer also ensures as much money as possible goes to benefiting the community, and we’ve phased the project so the genuinely affordable homes get built first.
If we didn’t act until we found an ideal site for which no one objected and received an unexpected cash windfall to cover all the costs, and were able to balance perfectly nostalgia and the need for 21st Century facilities in a way that pleased everyone, nothing would ever get built. There would be no new leisure centre, no new school, no new affordable homes.
I’d urge everyone to take a look for themselves at what we’re proposing.
Mayor of Hackney