Is Peabody planning a revised application with higher blocks?

Author: Cyril Richert

Architect’s image of the Peabody development

Phase 1 of the redevelopment (153 homes) was completed in April 2016 and includes 80 homes for social rent, 6 shared ownership and 67 private sale. Now the construction as stopped completely, as Peabody has decided to submit a revised planning application for the next phases.Once upon a time, a man called George Peabody established an organisation with the aim to be to “ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy of this great metropolis, and to promote their comfort and happiness“.  More than 150 years later, you can buy a 2 bedroom flat for the “modest” price of £770,000 in Peabody’s redevelopment in St John’s Hill. [please applaud here the pursuit of Peabody’s original aim to “ameliorate the condition of the poor and needy” who can only afford a £770 000 property nowadays!]. And of course all of that made possible thanks to Wandsworth Council!

Due to significant construction cost rise, work has stopped

Letter of Peabody explaining the work has stopped due to significant cost increase.

Click on the letter to read

In a letter sent in December 2016 to the local residents, Peabody wrote that due to the estimated build cost significant increase, they have decided to put a temporary hold on the development while they review the design and procurement of phase 2 and 3 (the tallest buildings). They aim at resubmitting a revised planning application, which they estimate could take about 12 months before to start building again (assuming they are successful).

As they wouldn’t give specific details, we can only assume that -:

  • they might decide to offset increased costs by trying to enlarge the buildings to get more sales to pay for the additional work, or
  • maybe they’re scaling back because they’re not selling at the stupid prices they’re asking [see online only 80% sold] and they’re scared there will be a collapse in property prices in the current economic crisis.

The local residents are hoping for the later but in our experience the former is more likely to happen! They might want to mix with their previous 2009 project with a 21 storey tower at the top of St John’s Hill and 650 units (538 currently)!

Peabody Architect's View

Peabody’s proposal in 2010

Another option would be to reduce even more the number of affordable/social units. The plan approved by the Council in 2012 already showed a substantial reduction of social accommodation (-25%): from the original 353 social housing units, the approved proposal was offering 200 social-rent units and 20 affordable-rent units. Even including the 58 shared-equity elements planned it is still a loss of 74 affordable homes while the remaining 227 would sell privately (at the price of £800k and more as we see above).

You can read the opinion of some tenants expressing their disarray on unofficial Peabody’s forums:

“Peabody promised us in a printed booklet that if planning permission for redevelopment went ahead, every tenant living on the estate at the time would be guaranteed the offer of a new flat on the redeveloped estate. Peabody and the building contractors have now reneged on that promise, by announcing there will be fewer flats for assured tenants and pressuring more of us to move off the estate. We are only being offered a derisory sum of money. We have also heard this is happening on other estates. Is this redevelopment or really ‘social cleansing’ to sell off flats to wealthier people? Has Peabody ‘sold out’ on providing sufficient social housing?”

On the same post, tenants were saying:

“On the Clapham Junction estate, Peabody has apparently squandered money in the last two years since redevelopment commenced, paying contractors Lakehouse to make cosmetic ‘improvements’ to existing flats in each block. This was under a so-called Quality Homes Programme which Peabody failed to provide full information on, despite promises to do so. Tenants were bullied and harassed by the contractors to have surveys done, resulting in flats having complete electrical re-wiring, kitchen and bathroom works and recently front doors being replaced. All this has been done in blocks due for demolition- some by summer 2016 ! “

Despite several phone calls and emails, Peabody did not answer any of our questions. We were forwarded a comment 6 days later from Cathy Bacon, Senior Development Manager at Peabody, who said:

We are in the process of reviewing the design to ensure we can achieve best value from the development. We are in the early stages of working up a revised planning application and will of course be consulting with residents and stakeholders as part of this. We will send out information on the consultation in due course.

Residents who remember the initial consultations will draw their own conclusion on Peabody’s attitude…

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