And there will be NO affordable housing

You may have read media reports saying the Clearings development on Draycott Avenue will include affordable housing. This is not true. The new residential project, which involves the demolition of Marlborough School, will not provide a single square meter of affordable housing. All of it is luxury property to be sold for maximum profit. This is evident from a number of project documents available on the RBKC website.

“The application has been submitted on the basis of 100% market housing with no on-site affordable floorspace,” states one of the background reports of the Major Planning Development Committee. This is in obvious contradiction with the London Plan and the RBKC’s own Core Strategy, which require all new developments to provide 50% of their floor area as affordable housing. Where less than 50% affordable floor area is proposed, Core Strategy policy CH2 states it must be demonstrated that the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing is provided.

None of this is the case with the Clearings development, initiated by John Lewis. Their multi-million project is subject to special treatment by the RBKC as the borough itself has a major stake in it. The developer has therefore been allowed to offer 100% market housing on the condition that they cover the costs for tearing down our school and building a new one.

“The proposal would fund the cost of the interim school and new Marlborough Primary school in lieu of on-site affordable housing (£26,500,000),” the committee’s background report continues. “The provision of the interim school and new two form entry primary school would represent a significant public benefit that would justify no on site affordable housing in accordance with policy CH2.”

It is later agreed that any amount saved from the construction works will be paid into the councils affordable housing fund.

In other words, the developer is allowed to get away with zero rather than 50% affordable housing. In return they must demolish a historical building full of kids and size down its plot, freeing up extra premium land for commercial development.

Please, sign the petition to stop that!

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John Lewis Sell Project to Property Development Sharks

John Lewis are no longer the owner of the Clearings site, whose redevelopment plans include the demolition of our school. This has become clear from a number of articles in the press. The entire project has been sold and the company does not have anything to do with it any more. According to the Telegraph, the price they claimed for it was £ 200 million.

Media articles link the deal to sports tycoon Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United and founder of Sports Direct. None of them, however, name the source of that information or have been able to confirm it. Officially the site has been sold to McGrove Securities Ltd, a brand new company registered ad hoc in February.

According to company information databases, it is a joint venture between major property developers McLaren and Citygrove. The new company does not seem to have offices or a functioning website yet and its only contact information is its registered address – the same as that of Citygrove. We have not been able to make any contact with the new owner so far.

Marlborough parents have not been informed about the sale, even though it went through in April. That means that in a few weeks our children will be moved to a warehouse facility owned by a commercial entity we have no information about and no contact with. We have not been given any details about the state of the new premises nor been allowed to see them.

It also means that John Lewis initiated the whole project with the intention to cash out as soon as they could. Rebuilding our school has been just an excuse for them and for the council to go ahead with a luxury residential development project at the expense of smaller school grounds and the loss of our precious historical building.

Please sign the petition to stop the demolition, your signature could make the council re-examine their plans.

RBKC Panel of Architects: Commercial building should be removed from the scheme

“More space is needed for the school to work successfully and either the commercial element should be substantially scaled back or better still removed altogether from the scheme.” This is what the RBKC Architects Appraisal Panel (AAP) has to say about the office building John Lewis are planning to build on about a quarter of today’s school grounds.

According to the borough’s website, the Panel consists of distinguished and experienced professionals with a wealth of knowledge about the area, meeting regularly to consider and advise upon major development proposals.

The AAP has reviewed John Lewis’ redevelopment proposal twice and pointed out several architectural issues with the project. Their main criticism is directed at the commercial building planned to replace today’s nursery and part of the playground. Here is more from the AAP’s January 2013 report:

“The land-take for the new commercial development compromises the school layout, circulation, connections and overall character. […] It was felt also that the commercial building could only have a marginal value in development terms and if RBKC chose to retain it on site then the Panel would need to have further details of the commercial reasons for this.”

Recommendations to remove the commercial building were not taken into consideration, as the AAP’s second report from March 2013 indicates:

“The AAP is disappointed that little progress had been made following the earlier presentation and that the outstanding issues remain unresolved.” […] “The commercial building is squeezing the new public realm and the opportunity for the architecture to properly deliver the concept and benefit from the clever plan form.”

According to the planning application documents, the response of the RBKC to these criticisms is that “the commercial building is a full part of the development brief” and that it has already been endorsed by the borough’s education department.

So why does the RBKC insist so much on taking away a quarter of the land from our expanding school and turning it into a five-storey office building? We’ll be looking for an answer from them over the next few days.