The Independent London Newspaper
18th February 2019

The Community Investment Programme is a big and progressive public works initiative

    Published: 26 January, 2017

    • I FEAR some political puritanism and a smidgen of nimbyism appears to drive the misrepresent­ation of many aspects of the council’s building programme by long-term objectors (A cool look at CIP, Letters, January 19).

    The Community Investment Programme is a big and progressive public works initiative. It is building 1,100 council homes, doing works to 13,000 council homes and repairing 54 schools. Three modern primary schools (two entire rebuilds in NW1 and one new school in NW6) will be built and Parliament Hill/William Ellis will have major work.

    The programme is fully costed and is run by the council. It relies more on regeneration than sales (actually a small number). Our council house building programme involves change, sometimes meaning bigger buildings, but often it involves more housing through better use of land. Not all sites constructed in the 1960s were built with the best use of space and we shouldn’t look at their design as particularly sacrosanct.

    All projects are planning policy compliant and make estates and community facilities better. Our first project nearing completion, Bacton Low Rise/Cherry Court council estate in Gospel Oak, has won national awards and the new estate was highlighted in an international list in The Guardian “Top Ten Buildings of 2016”.

    We are building a mix of tenures, council rent, intermediate rents for people on middling salaries (effectively rent-controlled flats for households on average incomes) and leaseholds for sale. 

    To build only one tenure would be to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    It would also be unaffordable so there would be no gains in council/social housing if projects can’t be paid for.

    Leaseholds for sale fund the projects – that’s the trade-off like everywhere else – but are most likely to be less expensive than the houses owned by some of the more vocal objectors, so to dub them all as “out of reach” is a little dubious. 

    In any case most people accept the need to increase the supply of homes right across the board.

    Some old workspaces have been lost, but new workspaces have been built to replace them. Some projects (Cockpit Yard) specifically aim to improve workspace. 

    I have asked the council to review all shops, workspaces and commercial holdings to better support public spending and business growth.

    The council commits to huge amounts of consultation to improve schemes but not every interest can be satisfied, we have to make a judgment. 

    In some developments we add money from other funds to increase local benefit, for example, £10million for more affordable housing in Somers Town after listening to the community and ward councillors.

    The council is always open to discussions around alternative models of funding development. One of the main challenges with Community Land Trusts is how you pay for them, which is why there aren’t a huge number of them.

    Finally the council is developing land and so are private developers, guided by planning policy. To expect the state to mass masterplan and build on all land is unrealistic in this century. 

    However I accept that sometimes the council has not sufficiently explained what communities gain from some developments (for example, section 106 gains and Community Infrastructure Levy) and I have asked the Town Hall to make these benefits much clearer as growth can only happen if it brings benefits to the people of Camden.

    Cllr THEO BLACKWELL
    Cabinet member for Finance, Technology & Growth

     

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