Social Housing and good design is alive and (very) well!
New social rented housing, and housing for all-important ‘key workers’ is all but diminished in London. Developers struggle to meet the challenging needs of communities and many Registered Providers are trying to meet a new need, quite different from that originally envisaged by the social housing movement.
Nevertheless, Temple Group, along with long time Camden-based Llewelyn Davies architects and Steven Bee of Urban Counsel advised University College London Hospitals Charity (UCLHC) on the redevelopment of its Middlesex Hospital Annex site, gaining planning permission from the London Borough of Camden for a scheme of 80% affordable housing- south of the Euston Road. At a time when housing need has never been greater, the vast majority of it will be social rent with the rest as good old-fashioned Key Worker Housing for NHS staff – being housing they can actually afford.
We might all agree that the planning process can be draining on the human spirit and of course, budget, but that some progress might be gained by oiling the wheels through a Planning Performance Agreement. And yet trying to persuade vociferous objectors and an initially unwilling local authority that their competing priorities on the site can be accommodated- including affordable housing, public open space and securing a long-term future of a listed building- remained as difficult as it has ever been.
Fortunately, Temple’s planning team and the wider design team are well versed in the design-led approach to development and the associated value it can brings to a site and place. Whilst it may sound cliched, the value of such sustainable development i.e. viable social housing + heritage + place + consultation was recognised, quite rightly, by Camden Council in its own policies. For this site, we could bring the scheme together to align exactly with the development plan aspirations for the site – with the added benefit of substantial and high quality affordable housing. The key to this was simply to influence early, pursue a logical and transparent design process- and by a proper analysis of what adopted and up to date policy actually says.
The result? Willing and helpful planning officers. Unanimous support at Planning Committee. An ‘amazed’ housing officer. ‘Amazed’ Members….and no objectors. Fortunately, our client is of great spirit and knows that every single penny of profit will be fed back into the NHS, that a £1M donation will be made to the Pathway Charity to support the homeless in Camden and all at a time when the NHS has itself recognises the need to generate value and improved services from its land.