‘Not what people need’: Community group sounds alarm after Woodberry Down masterplan reveal

Part of the Woodberry Down regeneration scheme. Photograph: Hackney Council

A resident has criticised proposals for the next phases of a major regeneration scheme in Woodberry Down – calling them “inappropriate” for Hackney.

Developer Berkeley Homes revealed the upcoming stages of its masterplan to deliver the work in partnership with Hackney Council and Notting Hill Genesis.

The revamped vision for phases 5-8 proposes up to 3,200 homes, with the height of the buildings ranging from three storeys up to 21 storeys.

Green and open space has increased to around 15,500 square metres since the first masterplan in 2014, while at least 50 per cent of existing trees will be retained, the developer said.

Following a public consultation and feedback in November last year, the developer said it has reduced the height of some of the buildings along Seven Sisters Road.

It has also pledged to “reprovide” the Woodberry youth space The Edge and improve access to the New River.

Housing across the proposed development will be a mix of tenures, with a 58.3 per cent target for private homes, 23.8 per cent of shared ownership homes and a 17.9 per cent target of homes classed as social rent.

However, a representative from the Woodberry Down Community Organisation, Geoff Bell, has criticised the plan, saying the number and height of the buildings will make the area “too dense”, while the number of social homes will be fewer than before the regeneration.

“This is what disturbs me the most,” he said. “We’re going through this long regeneration. How do we end up with fewer social homes than there were at the start despite being much denser? And the number of homes have increased 2.5 times. This is the main worry.”

He said for most people in Hackney, shared ownership homes are “not affordable” because to qualify, buyers need to earn an “average wage at the very least”.

With more than 50 per cent to be privately owned homes, he is worried many of them will be “bought by private prospectors”.

“We were promised this wouldn’t be the case,” he added.

A spokesperson from Berkeley said the developer is “really proud to be part of a Partnership that commits to deliver 41.7 per cent of homes as affordable homes across the development, particularly in these challenging times; delivering on the original commitments to bring forward a truly mixed and balanced community at Woodberry Down”.

They added: “We have worked extensively with Hackney’s planning authority over the last 12 months to produce, what we feel, is an exemplar proposal that delivers much-needed high quality new homes and large areas of accessible public open space for the residents and wider community to enjoy.”

Bell said new masterplan includes 1,000 more private homes than at the start of the first masterplan, and 100 fewer social homes.

He said the local GP surgeries, nurseries and dentists are full, but the proposal offers “nothing specific” to address this.

“They have said there will be money available for this, but there’s nothing concrete,” he said. “The way this has gone isn’t appropriate to what people of Hackney need.”

Bell called on Hackney Mayor Caroline Woodley to “stand for the community against developers”, as he claims she vowed to do during the election.

“There is no sign that Hackney Council is willing to stand by these words, certainly in Woodberry Down.”

With regards to GP surgeries and other infrastructure, the developer said they are “working with key stakeholders as part of the planning process to ensure there is sufficient capacity in the local area to meet the needs of the site”.

A Berkeley spokesperson added: “If anybody has questions or would like to give their views to the team, we would encourage them to join us at an event or join the online webinar, on 29 February, to speak to myself or another member of the team.

“We look forward to having continued conversations with the community as the project progresses.”

The developer is expected to submit an outline planning application to Hackney Council in May, followed by a formal consultation period over the summer.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney’s cabinet member for planning, said “The WDCO has played a longstanding role in making sure that the voice of residents is heard alongside that of all the development partners involved with the estate regeneration.

“WDCO’s contributions and engagement over the years has influenced and shaped the plans for each phase of the initiative and has ensured that the local community benefits from this significant estate regeneration initiative.”

He added: “At every stage of the Woodberry Down regeneration, the council and WDCO has sought to increase the amount of genuinely affordable homes for social rent.

“The proposed new masterplan both increases the amount of social housing compared to the current masterplan, and exceeds the commitment made to residents to guarantee every permanent council tenant living on the estate at the start of the regeneration initiative the option to move into a new, high quality social rented home.”

Update: this article was amended at 7pm on 22 February 2024 to include a comment from Cllr Guy Nicholson on behalf of Hackney Council. The council was approached for a response prior to publication of the original story.