Report of the Interim Executive Director for Growth, Planning
7.1 On 4 December 2017 the Cabinet made executive decisions in respect of the Church Street Masterplan. The Church Street Ward Councillors subsequently exercised their right to call in the decision for scrutiny by the committee.
7.2 The committee received a report that included details provided by the Church Street Ward Councillors for calling in the decision. It also included responses to the issues they had raised.
7.3 At the Chairman’s invitation the Cabinet Member for Housing made some opening remarks in response to the call-in request. Councillor Robathan stated that the committee had reviewed the Church Street Masterplan consultation process and output at its last meeting on 6 November 2017 where it had commended the wide range of consultation approaches that had been used and concluded that the consultation process had been well thought out and implemented.
7.4 Councillor Robathan clarified that the Masterplan did not seek to provide detailed plans for each site but to set a framework for the regeneration of Church Street. Each site would be the subject of much more detailed analysis of what can be delivered and any subsequent plans would require further approvals including planning permission. These would be the subject of public consultation. The Council recognised that there is a significant amount ofovercrowding in this part of Westminster and wished to build the type of provision that residents want.
7.5 Barbara Brownlee, Interim Executive Director for Growth Planning and Housing, then responded to each of the issues of concern that had been raised by the Church Street Ward Councillors.
Height of Buildings - there is nothing in the Masterplan that states that the Council will build any tall buildings. The Council will be sensitive to such an issue. There will be detailed individual consultations on each site and the Council will have regard to both its own and the GLA’s planning policies at the time. She undertook to re-examine proposals to demolish Kennett House.
Retention of Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES) - this would be re-provided and the Council had discussed this with WAES.
Demolition on such a large-scale versus renovation - the proposals at this stage are based on increasing the number of affordable housing in the Church Street area. These numbers are based on what the architects state, at this point, could exponentially be delivered if additional homes are demolished than in the futures plan. Detailed analysis had yet to be undertaken and would also need to be costed.
Housing Tenure - the proposals will meet the City Council’s housing policies and those of the GLA at the time. The current proposed master plan will deliver 50% affordable housing. If fewer buildings are demolished less affordable housing will be achieved.
Demolition of Supported Housing - if the Council intends to demolish any supported housing it will speak at length with residents beforehand. Such housing will be re-provided in Church Street. Individual people’s housing needs will be taken into account.
Protection of Historic Buildings - little was mentioned by consultees regarding protecting historic buildings. The Council has an exemplary record of protecting heritage and will have regard to buildings of historic value.
Effectiveness of the Regeneration Base at 99 Church Street - the effectiveness and output of the regeneration base is considered by officers to have the resources, support and expertise required. She had only in the last month been made aware about Future Steering Group meeting papers not going out in time. This was being picked up by the Director of Place Shaping.
Co-ordination between Ward councillors and City Hall - since taking over the portfolio a year ago the Cabinet Member had attended Church Street Futures Group meetings, which include the Church Street Ward councillors, consultation events and had been up and down Church Street.
7.5 Councillors Barbara Grahame and Aicha Less addressed the committee. Councillor Grahame stated that residents in Church Street were unhappy at how the regeneration process was going. She also raised concerns at the lack of engagement by the Council with Ward councillors. Councillor Less stated that it was unclear who the Masterplan was being developed for. Residents feel like they are being treated as an inconvenience. Their comments provided as part of the consultation seemed to have been put aside. Ward councillors would like the Council to reconsider and take note of their comments and incorporate them in the Masterplan. Ward councillors had not received a detailed account of all the responses received at the Regeneration Base and would like to be provided with these.
7.6 In response to the last point, Barbara Brownlee advised that the papers submitted to the Cabinet meeting on the 4 December 2017 included the Church Street Masterplan Consultation Report. This included an analysis of completed feedback forms, comment cards and other responses, the comments received and how the Masterplan has responded. She offered to take the Ward councillors through them.
7.7 The Committee considered the issues raised and asked and received responses to a range of questions.
7.8 Members asked about the level of affordable housing that will be delivered under the current proposed Masterplan and about the level that rents will be set. Barbara Brownlee clarified that 50.7% affordable housing will be delivered overall across the regeneration scheme which meets the Mayor of London’s guidelines. Rents will be set at the same level as those for Council tenants. No other type of affordable rents are being proposed. She also advised that where a Council tenant has to move to facilitate the regeneration they would only have to do so once within the area. This commitment would not extend to those in temporary accommodation.
7.9 Members asked about the viability and impact of increasing the level of affordable housing. Barbara Brownlee advised that this could only be achieved at the expense of providing other community benefits including public realm. The Council did not want to create a ghetto but an area with good public realm for the benefit of local residents.
7.10 The Committee referred to the financial implications in the report. This set out that it is a condition of the £23.5m Greater London Authority Edgware Road housing zone funding that the City Council are in contract with the GLA by 31 January 2018. This had been confirmed by the GLA. Members asked what the funding was earmarked for. Barbara Brownlee explained that this was a focused fund to buy leaseholders out of their properties. Deidra Armsby, Director of Place Shaping, explained that the GLA housing zone fund is finite. Based on her previous experience of overseeing regeneration in the London Borough of Newham there are likely to be other local authorities waiting to access this fund and that if the funding was not taken up by the Council it could be offered to other authorities.
7.11 The Chairman stated that the call in had provided an opportunity to re-air the decisions taken by Cabinet on the 4 December 2017. It was noted that each site will be the subject of further detailed consultation before any decisions on them are made.
7.12 RESOLVED: Having considered the matter, the committee endorsed the decision made by the Cabinet.
Councillors McKie and Roca dissented to the decision.