Greenwich Council’s plans to sell plots of land on three estates to a private developer are to be formally challenged by Labour councillors.
Pocket Living, which specialises in “affordable compact homes for first time buyers”, wants to build 151 one-bedroom flats across the three sites at The Heights, Charlton; Kidbrooke Park Close; and Quince Road in Lewisham.
The move was agreed by Greenwich Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, but councillors are angry that Pocket has been chosen ahead of Meridian Home Start, a company set up by the council to develop new homes available at 65% market rents.
Instead of the homes being available for rent, Pocket plans to sell the homes to Greenwich residents at a 20% discount, with a covenant in place to ensure they cannot be sold for a year after purchase.
A source within the Labour group told 853: “There is concern about the procurement process for choosing the developer Pocket Living who build small properties and anger that the council’s own Meridian Home Start is not being asked to build new homes on the sites at affordable social rents.
“The cabinet agreed that there must be consultation with tenants before a final decision is made and now councillors are calling for the Housing Scrutiny Panel to evaluate the proposal and the outcome of the consultation before a decision is made.”
The decision will now go before a “call-in” sub-committee of councillors who can send it back to the cabinet for reconsideration.
The issue of transferring the land to Meridian Home Start was not raised in Tuesday’s cabinet meeting (see discussion in full above). But council-owned land has already been handed over to Meridian Home Start for a small number of house-building schemes, including at Fred Styles House on Charlton Church Lane and on the former Rochester Way Social Club site in Eltham.
In addition, in recent years Greenwich has built some new council housing on spare bits of land in estates, including close to Elverson Road DLR station, close to the Quince Road site earmarked for sale to Pocket.
Council leader Danny Thorpe has defended the proposed sale on Twitter.
Hi @IzzetHickmet – proposals entirely aligned with the Manifesto we were democratically elected to deliver. See the second bullet point. It’s easy to pontificate about the housing crisis but we also need to deliver the homes we can. This proposal does that. pic.twitter.com/E8JmiCtLXq
— Dan Thorpe (@DanLThorpe) July 23, 2018
He told Tuesday’s meeting: “There have been some comments online about these particular schemes and our decision to dispose of the land; I would point out that on The Heights in Charlton, that is actually contaminated land that we are looking to dispose of; and while I appreciate that there have been some concerns about that, we have to address the housing crisis in any way we can.
“The land we are looking at here is land that we haven’t been able to make the best use of as an authority, so that conversation with residents will hopefully be a positive one when we explain what we’re doing.
“And also, we can utilise some money directly for us to build our own homes, council homes at social rents. It won’t provide us with the funds to provide all the homes we need, but it will provide us with some. And we have to start somewhere.”
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