The scheduled 5 day hearing of Southwark Council’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s order to release the viability assessment for the Heygate redevelopment will now run into a sixth day. The Tribunal will reconvene on the 18 February to hear final submissions from barristers. The viability assessment details why developers Lend Lease cannot deliver the 35% affordable housing required by Southwark’s housing policy, as well as failing to fulfil other policy objectives such as providing a car-free development.
The Tribunal has heard arguments from barristers for Lend Lease and Southwark that disclosure would, amongst other things, be in breach of Lend Lease’s human rights and copyright of its intellectual property. Further, it would give an insight into its business methods and an undeserved advantage to its competitors. On top of this other developers might be put off doing business with Southwark and other London local authorities, if they saw that a fellow developer’s viability assessment was being laid bare. Concerns were also raised about the impact of disclosure on the viability of the Heygate scheme itself and the potential for delay this might cause. Senior officers from Southwark, Lend Lease and GLA gave evidence in support of the case.
On the other side of the arugment was the Information Commissioner and former Heygate resident Adrian Glasspool (the original requester), who argued that Lend Lease’s plan to build only 71 social rented units and its failure to deliver the minimum 35% affordable housing, had given rise to a great deal of public disquiet, reflected in extensive media comment; it amply justified disclosure of the viability assessment, which weighed heavily in the public interest. Witnesses included members of the Elephant Amenity Network, writer and campaigner George Turner, planning and regeneration expert Dr Bob Colenutt and Cllr Adele Morris of Southwark’s planning committee. Cllr Morris argued that disclosure would save the council from further reputational harm: “Much has been made of the harm to Lend Lease if this ‘commercially sensitive’ information is made public, however I pointed out that much reputational harm has already been done to the council by keeping this information covered up. The more the council fights to keep it secret, the more suspicious people become.”
Amongst many documents examined by the Tribunal, the planning committee report of 15 January 2013 came under much scrutiny. This report recommending approval of the scheme said that it only became viable at 9.4% affordable housing. It also had an extensive appendix of local objections, focussing not just on the lack of affordable housing but also the over-provision of car-parking and failure to provide any on-site renewable energy.
It was also revealed that Lend Lease no longer shares information on the finances of the scheme with its development partner Southwark as it had done before the information request, but now provides a ‘data room’ for council officers to visit instead. The Tribunal reconvenes on 2nd Feb at 2pm - Court 2, Competition Appeals Tribunal (Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, London. WC1A 2EB).
Heygate MP1 – 360 new homes, 17 social rented Coinciding with the Tribunal hearing was the planning committee hearing for the first of the detailed planning applications under the Heygate masterplan. Approval was waved through for 360 homes - 284 free-market, 55 shared ownership, four affordable rent (at 50% market rent) and 17 social rented. The seventeen social rented units equals the number of on-street car-parking spaces provided for the new private town houses, to spare their owners the inconvenience of having to use a basement car-park. An additional 69 car parking spaces will be provided in the basement car park for the rest of the development’s car owners. The Elephant with its numerous public transport connections was supposed to be a car-parking free zone and a carbon positive development. Despite this the first detailed application fails to conform with Southwark’s requirement for zero car-parking and minimum 20% on-site renewable energy provision.