Councillors have unanimously welcomed the latest stage in the Town Hall’s housing supply programme (HSP), with an empty car park on the Fairbank Estate in Hoxton set to be turned into 73 new homes.
Of the properties, 28 will be for social rent and nine for shared ownership, with Fairbank council tenants living in homes that do not meet their needs prioritised for the former, and local families living or working in Hackney and unable to get on the housing ladder first in the queue for the latter.
The new development, which will see three eight-storey buildings erected on the site, will also include landscaping and playspace, as well as ground-floor commercial and retail units and a community room.
Housing supply programme boss Chris Trowell said: “This application is one of 16 projects in the council’s housing supply programme, which is intended to provide much-needed additional affordable housing on brownfield sites on existing housing estates.
“The HSP is currently on track to deliver 700 new homes, of which at least half will be genuinely affordable council rent and shared ownership. This is also the third project coming forward in Hoxton West, and collectively they will provide nearly 200 much-needed new homes, 60 per cent of them affordable.
“All these homes will be developed and managed by the council or resident-led organisations.
“We think it is right that local people should benefit first and foremost from this development and all council-led developments, so that is why existing council tenants living on Fairbank and Provost estates, whose existing homes are unsuitable, will be at the front of the queue to get one of these new social rented homes.”
The plans, developed in collaboration between the council, the community and Lynch Architects, only received one objection, on the grounds of “reduced ability to access home based on cumulative effects as a result of [council traffic calming scheme] Low Traffic Neighbourhood”, which officers dismissed by pointing out that the development does not alter the streets’ configuration.
The low level of objections was cause for investigation by planning committee chair Cllr Vincent Stops, who pointed out to officers the fact that the original application for the scheme had been lost to the cyber attack, questioning the planning department on whether a single objection for such a scheme would be expected.
According to head of planning Natalie Broughton, a consultation was properly carried out, with details of objections in the report as officers would expect.
Planning officers added: “Overall it is considered that the proposed development is a high-quality scheme providing residential units and 50 per cent affordable housing. The wider landscaping scheme repairs the fractured landscape of the current estate for the benefit of existing and future residents.”
The scheme was held up to scrutiny last night, with Cllr Clare Joseph arguing that 10 of the planned homes are one-bedroom properties, which she said are “not really in demand” in the area; Trowell responded that the housing represents a “real mix”, with 10 one-beds, eight two-beds and 10 three-bed family homes, which he said reflected level of housing need on Fairbank and Provost estates.
Joseph added: “Obviously we are doing a lot of infill across the borough. I’m wondering how long this project is likely to take – it is very stressful for people living in a building site for years at a time, so can we think a little bit about what kind of stress-relieving tactics or programmes we can offer to people? It’s very important, particularly when lots of people are working from home and surrounded by a building site for many hours a day.”
Officers said that the “complicated project” would have a construction management plan in place, pledging to work closely with residents to develop plans for safety and access.
While welcoming the levels of social housing being delivered and the design of the buildings, Cllr Steve Race quizzed officers on the retail units, pointing to some of the spaces under the Anthology building that were assigned for community use “lays empty still after a couple of years of being available.”
Officers responded that the ground floor uses will be an inward-facing community room, retail and commercial space that is outward facing which will be “as flexible as possible,” in their use, with ward councillors understood to have been pushing for a cashpoint to be provided in the area for locals.
After councillors unanimously voted for the scheme, Stops concluded: “It’s fantastic doing away with those horrible 76 parking spaces and getting 73 flats out of it. What more could you want in terms of sustainability?”
Deputy Mayor Cllr Rebecca Rennison, cabinet member for finance, housing needs and supply, said: “The coronavirus crisis has shown just how important a safe, secure and genuinely affordable home is, and as we work to rebuild a better Hackney out of the pandemic I’m proud that Hackney is building the new generation of social housing that our borough desperately needs.
“The community and the council have continued working together to develop these plans at the height of the pandemic, and it’s only fair that those who already live here are the first to benefit – whether it’s by being in the front of the queue for a new home if their current home doesn’t meet their needs, or the wider transformation of the estate that will create a better place to live for everyone.”