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Aftermath 2012 - Affordable Housing Squeeze

Additional information re Athletes Village in section []

One of the major promises of London 2012 was that it would create a large number of affordable homes for East Londoners.

In a recent Freedom of Information response to a question:

How many homes are now expected to be provided on the Olympic Park? What is the breakdown expected to be per neighbourhood?

the London Legacy Development Corporation stated:

The Legacy Communities Scheme (LCS) has planning permission for up to 6800 homes across five new neighbourhoods by 2031. This breaks down to up to 850 at Chobham Manor; 650 at East Wick; 850 at Sweetwater; and 1700 at Pudding Mill. The LCS also includes a further 2600 homes at Marshgate, however, the proposals for this neighbourhood will be reviewed as part of the Olympicopolis project, our proposals for a new University and Cultural Quarter.

In fact that breakdown does not equal 6800 but 6650. In answer to a follow up question on this discrepancy the LLDC said:

The Legacy Communities Scheme outline planning permission (LPA ref. 11/90621/OUTODA) consented 641,817sqm of residential floorspace. This identified that approximately 6,800 homes could be provided, however, as an outline consent this could only be indicative.

However, the figure of 6650 is also incorrect as the figure of 2600 provided for Marshgate Wharf had already been revised down to around 1600. A further Freedom of Information response confirmed Londonist's story that the creation of the University College of London campus would mean a 'reduction of up to 1000 new homes.'

So the present projection for housing in the Olympic Park is approximately 5650 homes.

Even this figure is subject to further revision. A chance visit to the consultation taking place at the Aquatic Centre regarding the UCL development revealed that most of the housing on the site will be reserved for students. The breakdown provided was that 650 homes on the Stratford Waterfront site, north of the Aquatic Centre, would be available to the public at large, with the rest of the housing on the UCL site, south of the Aquatic Centre, around 950 homes, being reserved for students. It seems this still has to be confirmed by the LLDC planning committee.

If this is so then this means the publicly available housing on the Olympic Park would be around 4,700 homes.

Strangely, on its website the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) states

By 2030, the Park will be home to more than 10,000 new households, among the first to live in the brand new E20 postcode...

Plainly there is a discrepancy between the claimed 6800 or 6650 or 5650 or 4,700 homes and the claim of 10,000 homes as it appears on the LLDC website. So I asked a follow up question:

Further to this I note that on the LLDC website it states that the Park will be home to 10,000 homes, see http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/the-park/homes-and-living - given the statement above, where does this figure of 10,000 come from given that both the figures quoted relate to ca 2030? Is there a difference between the Legacy Communities Scheme and the Park? Are other neighbourhoods planned which would mean this figure of 10,000 will be achieved elsewhere?

Indeed, it turns out that there is a difference between the Legacy Communities Scheme and the Park. The LLDC replied:

The Legacy Communities Scheme covers the 5 neighbourhoods that LLDC is responsible for developing, more information is available on our website:http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/our-story/transforming-east-london/legacy-communities-scheme. The 10,000 figure includes the Legacy Communities Scheme as well as East Village figures as it is considered to be within the Park, although LLDC is not responsible for it.

Not only does the LLDC include East Village in its legacy figures but it also includes a site at Rick Roberts Way. This had been referred to elsewhere in the response, so I asked:

I note the LLDC has included Rick Roberts Way in the response, but this is not in the Olympic Park, which is what my request referred to. I am unclear why this reference has been included. Does the fact that this has been included mean the 10,000 homes figure includes homes outside the Olympic Park?

Indeed it did and Rick Roberts Way was also part of this Legacy Communities Scheme as the LLDC stated:

The Rick Roberts Way site forms part of the Legacy Communities Scheme planning permission, in which the site is identified as Planning Delivery Zone 12.

The idea that East Village, formerly the Athletes Village, should be considered to be inside the Olympic Park and an Olympic legacy is entirely illegitimate. When London 2012 moved the Athletes Village from Clays Lane, where it was first located in the 2003 planning application, it took over part of the Stratford City site which already had planning permission for housing development. [Initially the Village covered the whole of the Clays Lane, Park Village and Clays Lane Travellers' site plus a section of the Stratford City housing site. It was then moved entirely on to the Stratford City site. The abandoned area became Chobham Manor which also includes a small piece of land taken from the Eastway Cycle Track. At a 'consultation' in Stratford at the end of 2003 I asked why the whole Village had not been put on Stratford City and was told Stratford City was not a suitable site for the whole Village because a railway line posed a security problem. The decision was later taken to move the whole Village on to the Stratford City site. It had originally been claimed Clays Lane was needed for the Olympics because it would be the site of the Village. When this ceased to be the case the LDA still said it needed the land for back of house facilities for the Village] The LDA had included the whole of the Stratford City site in the compulsory purchase red line to give it leverage over the consortium building on that site. This housing was always going to be built regardless of the Olympics and is simply double counting as the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) itself admitted in an earlier Freedom of Information response.

East Village is not in the Olympic Park, however much the LLDC might like to claim it is, and the statement that 'LLDC is not responsible for it' is an admission of this fact. This kind of sleight of hand is typical of London 2012. The Olympic authorities have long and falsely tried to claim Stratford City as a whole as an Olympic legacy.

original Stratford City planoriginal Stratford City plan

In fact, not only is it outside the Olympic Park but the Olympics damaged the delivery of housing at Stratford City. In the 2007 Planning Application the Athletes' Village was supposed to deliver a legacy of 4,500 homes. As the plans developed this was reduced to 3,500 homes and then with the breakdown of the contract with Lend Lease at the time of the financial crash, when Lend Lease did a runner, the amount of housing was reduced to 2818 units. The site had its own planning permission and design already agreed before the Olympics moved in. This design had to be altered and important features like the Cascades, a series of water features running through the housing site, were dropped and replaced by a few ponds.

Furthermore, as the site had a requirement to produce 50% affordable housing this loss of units meant a considerable loss of affordable homes. So London 2012 actually caused substantial damage to the housing to be delivered by Stratford City. It also cost the public purse £275 million, a cost which the taxpayer would not have had to meet if the housing had been left in the hands of the Stratford City consortium.

This sleight of hand is typical of the Olympic authorities with repeated false claims such as non-existent rail infrastructure gains, the not the largest new park in Europe for 150 years, the absurd claim that Stratford City is an Olympic legacy and most egregious of all the dismissal of the industrial area as a 'wasteland' or 'urban desert' of no value. True to form the LLDC has altered the way the compulsorily purchased industrial land is described, now calling it 'a hive of activity and industrial innovation'.

As with East Village, Rick Roberts Way is not an Olympic legacy and is not an Olympic site. Housing would have been built on this site regardless of the Olympics, just as it has up and down Stratford High Street. By incorporating these external sites the LLDC has yet again claimed a false legacy. Instead of delivering 10,000 homes it is in fact creating around 50% fewer.

When responding to questions on affordable housing the LLDC claimed:

Around a third of them will be affordable housing.

However, it went on to say:

The Legacy Communities Scheme planning permission incudes a site-wide affordable housing target of 31% subject to viability and a minimum of 20% affordable housing.

So not only is 'around a third' or 33% imprecise when a target has been set of 31% but actually it is subject to viability and the target could easily slip to 20%.

As Londonist had pointed out all these targets are subject to varying degrees of slippage:

The original plan for affordable housing was that 35% of all new homes built in E20 would be split between social rent, shared ownership and what's called 'affordable rent'. That was reduced to 28% for the Chobham Manor development, and it turns out that the 40% affordable housing planned for East Wick and Sweetwater has been cut to 30%.

In fact, along with most reporters Londonist has forgotten the original target. Back in 2006 at the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry the London Development Agency (LDA) stated:

The legacy development is expected to result in the region of 9,400 new homes with the objective of up to half of these being 'affordable' (Statement of Case 7.3).

That original promise of 50% 'affordable' housing, a questionable concept as is well known, has been long forgotten. There are three different definitions of 'affordable' housing. As the LLDC describes them:

Across all neighbourhoods the affordable housing comprises 30% social rent, 30% affordable rent and 40% intermediate.

Of these only the social rent category can be described as genuinely affordable. So that is 30% of the 20-31% 'affordable' category.

When it makes its calculations the LLDC does not take into account the loss of genuinely affordable homes for up to 1000 people at Clays Lane and Park Village. The units at Clays Lane and Park Village included studio flats, single bedroom flats and bungalows, two bedroom flats, four, six and ten person houses so it is hard to make exact comparisons with the kind of housing being provided in the Olympic Park as the homes there will not include such large units. At Clays Lane, for example, there were a total of 107 units of which 23 were ten person houses and 17 six person houses, which by comparison with the units in the Park would equal two or three units. The Park village site included two tower blocks totalling around 140 two person and studio flats plus a couple of streets of around 50 houses with a mix of four and six person houses. Park Village was at that time a student estate, although affordable by comparison with student housing now. It did have some council tenants. But the University of East London (UEL) was going to close the student housing as it was building student housing in Docklands and the estate would then have been available to the public sector.

There were also, of course, two Traveller communities who were forced to move out of the Olympic Park. The LLDC has not made any provision for Travellers in the Olympic Park.

To compare this would mean between 300 and 350 genuinely affordable homes on these two pre-Olympic sites at Clays Lane and Park Village. To compare these affordable homes with the LLDC's housing projections, 31% of 5650 equals 1751 homes, while the 30% social housing of that total equals 525 homes. If viability reduces the affordable element to 20% then that reduces the total of 'affordable' homes to 1130 homes. The 30% social housing of that total is 339 homes.

Given the fact the Marshgate Wharf site is, according to UCL, only going to produce 650 homes for the general public this means that the affordable housing available to the general public on the Park will decline further. 31% of 4,700 is 1457 homes. 30% of that would leave a total of 437 genuinely affordable homes. 20% of 4,700 is 940 and 30% of that would leave 282 genuinely affordable homes.

In any of those scenarios, taking into account the loss of housing at Clays Lane and Park Village, the Olympic Park will have produced either almost no net gain or even a small net loss of genuinely affordable social housing.

Since asking these Freedom of Information questions it seems the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has, quite correctly, become concerned at the lack of an affordable housing legacy from the Olympics. However, despite this, according to the Financial Times:

The mayor has not sought to intervene in these deals. But he has called for more to be done on the next two sites, at Pudding Mill Lane and Rick Roberts Way, and staff at LLDC are figuring out how to squeeze in more affordable housing.

Rick Roberts Way, it has to be recalled, is not in the Olympic Park, so is not an Olympic Legacy. As stated earlier, housing would have been built on this site regardless of the Olympics, just as it has up and down Stratford High Street. The FT continues:

The LLDC is considering whether to build a higher density of homes, or to restructure offers for developers, for example by making the homes available for rent rather than sale.

As an example of how the LLDC has completely lost the plot on meeting local housing needs, David Goldstone, chief executive of the Corporation, is quoted by the FT as saying rising property prices are “almost a symptom of the success” of the area’s improvement, thereby completely denying the supposed purpose of the project as described in the Convergence Agenda (see page 11) according to which the Olympics was supposed to deliver a legacy through 'the regeneration of an entire community for the direct benefit of everyone who lives there.’ As the Planning Guidance states:

It is therefore vital that the regeneration of the Olympic Park and Stratford does not result in an isolated island of prosperity, but will instead help raise the social and economic well being of east London as a whole.

It will be particularly important and challenging to ensure that existing communities have access to the new facilities and opportunities, and are not excluded or displaced by the changes in the OLSPG area the Games are bringing about.

Of course, there is nothing surprising in this. The LLDC Local Plan, agreed by a Planning Inspector in 2015, fails to actually quote the Convergence Agenda and establish how the Local Plan will achieve its objectives. It merely makes passing reference to its existence.

In this FT article replete with errors and bizarre assertions, the most extraordinary comment is made by Jules Pipe, retiring Mayor of Hackney and now Sadiq's Deputy Mayor for Planning and Regeneration, who, when discussing the remediation of the Park, asserted:

“No private developer, even with a massive subsidy, would have cleaned this up. Eventually, there would have been a lot of off-the-shelf housing in the middle of nowhere with very few facilities and a big layer of plastic a meter below their gardens to keep all the heavy metals and whatever at bay from their vegetables and flowers. That would not have been a good result.”

In reality, Jules is wrong. Private developers would have remediated the sites they were developing in order to make money out of the valuable land next to rivers and canals. But, ironically, Jules' comment is a pretty accurate description of what is left over after the Olympics. There actually is just such a 'big layer of plastic' covering much of the Park, as in the picture below, a bit less than a metre below the surface, left after the Olympic Delivery Authority's rubbish remediation, along with a store of over 7,000 tonnes of radioactively contaminated soil situated about 250 metres north of the West Ham stadium, which was constructed without the knowledge of the ODA planning decisions team! The plastic layer warns developers they will have to do further remediation if they are to build on these sites. In addition, there is not much housing with very little of it affordable, as described above. And as for the facilities, just a few are left after the temporary facilities were knocked down, surrounded by acres of paths. They include a football stadium where there was meant to be an athletics stadium and a bizarre folly dreamed up by Boris in the washroom at Davos. Not a good result indeed!

2012 Olympic Contamination Warning Marker Layer: Terram 1000 Warning Marker Layer being installed on contaminated substrate.  Remediation strategy specifies placement over most of the 200ha site.2012 Olympic Contamination Warning Marker Layer: Terram 1000 Warning Marker Layer being installed on contaminated substrate. Remediation strategy specifies placement over most of the 200ha site.


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