Key issues that we would wish to given to Cabinet members for its meeting on 19 November 2015
1.The Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum has been designated by the LLDC. We are focused on developing a Neighbourhood Plan for the designated Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Area that meets the needs of the local community – residents, community groups and small businesses and which will be in general conformity with the LLDC Local Plan (the relevant planning policy for our area).
2.There was no dialogue with the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum prior to publication of the cabinet paper and so there is a lack of focus on how the preferred option will address community concerns and aspirations. A full discussion with us at a more formative stage of Newham’s re-thinking on this (at least since designation of the Neighbourhood Forum) could have facilitated inclusion of alternative solutions. We are disappointed that the paper provides no evidence showing how any of the options will impact positively on aspects relating to the social, economic and environmental well-being of our community and the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood.
3.We are disappointed that Newham’s Cabinet is being asked to make decisions about the Carpenters Estate that not fully based on current planning policy for the Greater Carpenters Area and more importantly based on extremely out-of-date evidence that promotes demolition of the Carpenters Estate.
4.We note that the Planning Inspector report of the Examination in Public of the LLDC Local Plan highlighted that “there remain questions as to whether the assessments of refurbishment schemes are sufficiently up-to-date, and whether the most reasonable option for this area in the future has been defined”.
5.As a Neighbourhood Forum we would like any proposal for this area to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a most reasonable option has been defined.
6.We feel that an alternative, based on refurbishment of the Carpenters Estate with sensitive infill, would best – meet the needs of existing residents of the estate and of the wider Greater Carpenters community, the requirements of the LLDC Local Plan and of households from Newham’s housing list that desperately need social-rented homes – than could be achieved through demolition of existing homes and rebuilding of 2,000 new homes.
7.Delivery of 2,000 new homes would achieve at best 666 replacement ‘affordable homes’ none of which would be social-rented, and would actually result in a net loss of around 54 social-rented homes – which would be detrimental to the achievement of the LLDC’s affordable housing target and in meeting Newham’s housing need.
8.An additional problem is the government’s Housing and Planning Bill’s through which Starter Homes will replace the social-rented or affordable rent homes that might be achieved through section 106 agreements. According to Savills, buyers on median incomes would face a cash shortfall in almost all of London and the SE when buying a starter home. A couple seeking a mortgage up to 3.5 times their income would come up short in all London boroughs and would face a shortfall of more than 30% in two thirds of them. £450,000 is 12 times the median London household income level. Many households in Newham have below London median £39,910 household income levels.
9.Our Neighbourhood Forum is unable to make any assessment of the four options that are provided for the cabinet. Insufficient information has been provided to determine whether such a proposal might meet the requirements of the LLDC Local Plan. In addition we have been given very short notification and after papers had been published on Newham’s website.
10.While we hear that your officers feel that they are not required to formally consult with us at this stage, we feel that a more open and transparent relationship would be beneficial both to Newham Council and to us – particularly given that we are a designated Neighbourhood Forum.
11.The way that previous consultation was carried out would not meet current legal requirements in terms of ‘fair consultation’, which would require both adherence to the Gunning principles and would require consultation ‘not only on preferred options, but also upon arguable, yet discarded alternative options’ (Supreme Court judgment Mosely v LB Haringey 2014).
12.This would be a good time for Newham to take a more open and transparent approach to working with our Neighbourhood Forum and to considering ‘alternative’ options that would more widely support community concerns and aspirations. We feel that an alternative option of refurbishment of the Carpenters Estate would alone maintain 720 social rented homes around 370 of which are currently unoccupied. Sensitive infill development could facilitate delivery of additional affordable homes. This would help in achieving LLDC Local Plan targets and would better meet Newham’s need for low-cost rented homes.
13.We note that the LLDC does not depend on the demolition and redevelopment of the Carpenters Estate to meet it housing targets. The LLDC’s Local Plan is looking for only an additional capacity of 629 homes (of all tenures) from sub-area 3 which covers Central Stratford and the Southern Queen Elizabeth Park up to 2035/36 (that is – in addition to schemes already listed in its Local Plan).
14.We have been advised by Newham officers that the borough’s very outdated estimates of refurbishment costs (now eight years old which estimate costs of refurbishment of £15m per tower block), in part, relate to the amounts of asbestos in the buildings. As there are now newer and more innovative methods of refurbishment available than was the case eight years ago, there is potential for using cheaper and more effective methods of refurbishment that (i) could result in a scheme that is just a fraction of the previous estimated costs and (ii) would not necessitate the high cost to removing asbestos from these blocks prior to demolition.
15.We have a large amount of evidence showing that in comparison to other tower block refurbishments, Newham’s estimated costs are eye-wateringly high – being between four and five times average costs.
16.Our Neighbourhood Forum wishes to work in an evidence based fashion and feels this can only be fully achieved through an up-to-date analysis of refurbishment costs and a full analysis of costs to existing tenants and leaseholders including taking into account future energy costs. We have already approached a number of organisations that may be able to assist us in looking at this. We will look to achieve sensitive infill development that might support additional housing, employment, social infrastructure, enhanced green spaces and bio-diversity supporting community needs and in conformity with the LLDC Local Plan.
17.We feel it would be hugely beneficial if Newham Council were to provide the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum support in doing this. We would ask the Cabinet to provide its support (for this) this evening.