Fury at ‘profitable’ fire station site scheme with no affordable housing

Kingsland Fire Station

Kingsland Fire Station – the site where the flats and school would be built

Developers stand to make a sizeable profit from the sale of 68 flats for tens of millions of pounds on the site of the former Kingsland Fire Station and should change their plans to make some of the homes affordable, a ward councillor says.

Cllr James Peters has written to the Town Hall stating that the sale of the properties and commercial units planned for the site “would leave a very considerable profit for the free school trust, The Benyon Estate and (maybe) the Education Funding Agency”.

The fire station closed in 2014 because of City Hall cuts under then Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Department For Education soon after rubber stamped plans for a free school to open on the land.

Hackney New School is to run the educational institution, and it is understood profits from the sale of properties would be split between property firm The Benyon Estate and the Education Funding Agency.

Cllr Peters said a trio of three-bedroom properties proposed as part of the development could alone net over £3 million in total.

In a formal objection to the plans, he wrote: “I am unable to guess how much the sale of the commercial units on the ground floor would generate, but, on the basis of the calculations above, it is likely that the sale of just the 68 flats will generate well over £37 million.

“This contrasts with £16 million for acquiring the land…and around £6 million for building the school, with construction costs (without land costs) of around £80,000 per flat”.

His calculations are based on estimates only as the precise costs are not known. No affordable housing is currently set to be provided as part of the scheme.

In his letter, which he has published online, Cllr Peters wrote: “We cannot allow those putting up free schools and the Benyon Estate to make a big profit on a prime piece of land which used to be occupied by a fire station until closed by the previous Mayor of London, without that land being used to mitigate the housing emergency in which we find ourselves.

Allowing a large profit to be extracted without homes being built for ordinary people as part of the development “would be a travesty, a mockery of the council’s policies and an insult to those people throughout the borough”, he said.

Local MP Meg Hillier has written to the Education Funding Agency and Education Secretary Justine Greening to ask them to consider the need for affordable homes for teachers.

She said: “Without affordable homes for teachers the recruitment challenges for local schools will only increase.”

Hillier added: “On this site it has a golden opportunity to deliver both a school and homes for teachers.”

But Hackney New School chairman Andreas Wesemann said the development was not a profit making exercise for the school.

He told the Hackney Citizen: “I’m sorry, you just have to have the most basic understanding of how the scheme works. We are running a school, we are not developers.”

A planning application on the council’s website says the school would have places for up to 350 pupils.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said project costs would be published after the school is built.

Edward Benyon, Manager of The Benyon Estate, said: “We have been an active part of the Hackney community for more than three hundred years and are committed to providing local residents with high quality facilities to meet their needs, now and in the future.

“We are delighted that through our partnership with the EFA, we will be creating a new primary school for the borough, providing modern facilities for approximately 350 local children and significantly reducing any potential impact on the public purse.

“Under the terms of the partnership, any profit The Benyon Estate can make is strictly limited and will be used to support our ongoing development and renovation projects in the area.”