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Camden Council faces calls for end to policy supporting ‘poor doors’

PUBLISHED: 12:38 28 July 2015

The 'poor door' entrance for affordable housing residents of the Prince's Park development in Kentish Town. Picture: Polly Hancock

The 'poor door' entrance for affordable housing residents of the Prince's Park development in Kentish Town. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A Camden Council policy encouraging housing developments to force poorer residents to use a different entrance to their wealthier neighbours could be banned amidst claims they cause “appalling social segregation”.

The entrance and concierge for private residents of the Prince's Park development in Kentish Town. Picture: Polly HancockThe entrance and concierge for private residents of the Prince's Park development in Kentish Town. Picture: Polly Hancock

London Mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan has slammed what has been dubbed “poor doors” in mixed-use developments, saying they “drive a wedge between our communities”.

The practice, which sees separate entrances for those in luxury and social/affordable housing, has been promoted by some developers as a bonus for wealthier clients who don’t wish to mix with their poorer neighbours.

It can also see the less well-off forced to use separate bins and postal services, and banned from access to the other amenities, such as the use of bike racks or a concierge.

Developers – along with Camden Council – claim the policy helps keep down service charges when providing affordable housing.

Sadiq Khan has pledged to ban 'poor doors' should he become the Mayor of LondonSadiq Khan has pledged to ban 'poor doors' should he become the Mayor of London

But Mr Khan last week promised that should he become Mayor, the practice would be banned.

The Labour MP said: “We outlawed segregation in this country almost 50 years ago and I’m not going to allow it to rear its ugly head again. Poor doors segregate people who are living side by side.

“I want a London that rejoices in its social cohesion not separates people on the basis of their social class. That’s why, with the powers I would have as Mayor, I will use them to bring an end to this dreadful and socially divisive practice.”

The pledge could prove a headache for Labour-led Camden Council whose housing policy argues in favour of separate entrances for poor and wealthy residents.

Its policy reads: “The Council does not generally seek to mix affordable and market dwellings on the same corridors or sharing the same stairs, lifts and entrance lobbies. This is because occupiers have to pay a service charge and/ or management charge for the cleaning and maintenance of communal spaces. Service charges are often a significant proportion of overall housing costs, particularly in market housing blocks, and can simply be too high for the occupiers of affordable housing to pay. The law ensures that an occupier cannot be required to pay higher service charges to subsidise charges to another occupier receiving the same common services, regardless of tenure.”

Some Camden residents have been vocal in their opposition to poor doors.

Last year, the opening of the Prince’s Park flats in Kentish Town was marred by heavy criticism as it saw poorer families shunned from the concierge-manned glass door entrance at the front of the building and forced to use a more unsightly entrance at the rear – creating what critics termed “second-class citizens”.

A proposed 24-storey residential tower at 100 Avenue Road in Swiss Cottage – currently the subject of a public planning inquiry – would also see a “poor door” entrance, as reported here.

Phil Jones, Camden Council cabinet member for planning, said: “Stigmatising any group through housing design is unacceptable. We want development in Camden to be ‘tenure blind’ so there is a good mix of private and social housing and you can’t tell which is which from the outside. Our planning policy requires a common design approach with high quality materials and finishes throughout.

“Of course, housing associations will usually want to provide social homes around different stair cores to flats for market sale so they can keep service costs low for tenants on modest incomes. We do not demand mixing door by door as the higher costs and difficult management arrangements would just result in far fewer genuinely affordable homes being built.”

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