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Are Housing Targets Giving Developers a Free Ride?

Updated: May 13, 2021

The new London Plan has just been published condemning South West London, particularly Hounslow and Kingston, to massive development and population increases, with huge housing targets - Kingston itself has to build 964 homes each year. Developers have been handed massive powers in order to achieve these targets, getting favourable access to council planning departments desperate to achieve these targets, and bargaining to avoid the affordable homes quota. Developers

can use viability assessments to reduce affordable housing requirements where they can show that this would prevent a project from going ahead. Councils appear to nod through damaging developments, which are contrary to the local plan and their own residents’ opposition, and in some cases, other borough’s opposition. This largely unfettered development is causing damage to vulnerable and internationally protected habitats in Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, our heritage and communities. With development threatening industrial land, the green belt and Metropolitan Open Land in “very special circumstances” - which may be that there is no other suitable land available - are we removing employment possibilities, leisure facilities and farmland in order to satisfy targets which will not meet affordable homes quotas, but will provide attractive profits for property developers? Are we building homes for rich overseas investors which will lie empty, whilst the homeless camp out on the pavements outside? We asked the local GLA candidates for SW London if they believe these targets are achievable, will deliver enough affordable units and if so, how the homes will be delivered without destroying SW London. Here’s how they responded: Green Party candidate and Richmond Councillor Andree Frieze believes “there is no housing crisis but there is an affordability crisis”. She argues we don't need tower blocks with tiny rooms and no light. She blames the sell off of right to buy and council demolitions, and points out that the current targets are not achievable and there is enough brownfield land to be changed. Andree also questions the ONS data on which the housing targets are based, suggesting that these need to be revisited. LibDem candidate and Council leader for Richmond Gareth Roberts says Richmond simply doesn't have the small sites to accommodate the targets. So they have to go elsewhere.

Candice Atterton, for Labour, says she would welcome a review of the numbers and targets and agrees there is often a problem with scale of these sites. She says the main thing is about affordability and rent controls making sure people have secure homes. Conservative candidate Nicholas Rogers criticised the “rash of tower blocks" in Kingston. He agrees that new housing is needed but it needs to be affordable and family sized.

Helen Hinton, Kingston independent Residents Group


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