Essential Living loses appeal to modify planning consent
Tom Symes, our Committee member with joint responsibility for planning, writes:
Members may be aware that the appeal by Essential Living (Swiss Cottage) Limited against Camden’s refusal of its application to modify the consent it obtained in 2016 to build a 24 storey block of 186 flats at 100 Avenue Road by the tube station at Swiss Cottage has been refused.
Essential Living started work in 2017, demolishing the existing building and completing the piling and basement box, but “paused” significant construction works on the site in the summer of 2020. The new application in 2021 had sought to remove the obligation agreed in 2016 to include at least 36 affordable units in the new block, leaving as the only “affordable housing” obligation that 18 of the 186 flats would be available on a “discounted market rent” basis. Essential Living said that due to Covid-19, the increased cost of the main contract plus other mounting costs, and significant delay to the original project timescales, meant that it could no longer afford to include the affordable housing.
Camden had refused the new application because of the loss of affordable housing. Its annual delivery of affordable homes has consistently fallen below the target of 353 homes per year since at least 2012/13. There are several thousand people waiting for affordable housing. Current waiting times for social rented housing range from 2 to 9 years depending on house size. There was little dispute between the main parties that Camden has a significant affordable housing need.
The public inquiry into the appeal was held between 9 and 12 November, and BelSoc was one of the speakers. Essential Living did not provide any evidence about its financial backers or any commitment to build the scheme even if it was successful in the appeal. Camden and Essential Living agreed that under the existing consent the scheme will lose c£70m and removing the affordable housing would reduce the deficit to about £56m. On that basis the Inspector decided that the scheme was still not going to be deliverable and refused the appeal.
Essential Living has spent more than £60m to date. It is not clear what will happen next: there could be court proceedings and further applications. For the moment it is unlikely that there will be further work on the site, which remains surrounded by hoardings. BelSoc will continue to monitor the position.