100 Avenue Road developer tells inspector affordable housing “not viable”

100 Avenue Road

100 Avenue Road - Credit: Essential Living

A planning inquiry has been held over a developer's proposal to reduce the affordable housing in a proposed 23-storey tower block in Swiss Cottage.

Developer Essential Living (EL) appealed against Camden Council’s refusal of an application to reduce the affordable housing included at 100 Avenue Road. 

The inquiry ran from November 9-12 and a decision will now be considered by the planning inspector.

The initial application for the 184-property scheme included  28 “affordable rent” units, eight "intermediate housing" unit and 18 flats with "discounted market rent" for 15 years. 

The amendments would see all the above replaced by 18 "discounted market rent" units “in perpetuity”.

David Whittington of Savills (UK) Ltd, giving evidence on behalf of EL on November 11, said the scheme, as it stands today, is “not  viable”. 

Asked whether the change would achieve the initial plan for affordable housing “equally well”, he replied: “It would allow the maximum reasonable achievable affordable housing provision to be secured.

“It is common ground that the clause as it stands will not deliver affordable housing and there are substantial wider other public benefits associated with this site coming forward,” he added. 

The developer submitted evidence to show the proposed changes would leave it with a £56m deficit, compared to a £70m deficit with the existing plan.  

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Morag Ellis QC, representing Camden, said the borough's housing situation is “very acute”.

“The target for affordable housing of 5,300 additional homes from 2016 to 2031 is not currently been met,” she said. 

ONS data shows that the average house price in Camden was £800k for the year to September 2020, almost 19 times the median annual income of residents (£42k).

At the time of rejecting the application, a Camden Council spokesperson said: “In line with the legislation, officers considered whether the modified obligation would serve the same useful purpose and concluded that it did not.”

Protests against plans for the site date back to 2013 and approval for the tower block was eventually given by a government inspector in 2016. But work was paused early in the pandemic, before the developer returned with its changes to affordable housing provision.