'Borough can't be overdeveloped if it's failed to hit GLA building target'

The number of new homes being started by builders in England fell at its steepest rate for three yea

The number of new homes being started by builders in England fell at its steepest rate for three years - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Redbridge Council hopes to tackle the perception that the borough is being “overdeveloped”, insisting this cannot be true if it is not building enough new homes.

In January, Redbridge failed the government’s Housing Delivery Test, after building less than two thirds of the new homes target set for it by the Greater London Authority.

A consequence of failing is that new housing applications will have “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, making it harder for the council to reject them.

In an effort to “regain control”, the council will now review its Local Plan, only three years after it was last redone, and wants to tackle residents’ perception of the borough as overdeveloped.

At the overview scrutiny committee on Monday, March 15, councillors discussed the reason for the failure, with some blaming private developers while others criticised fellow councillors. 

Cllr Ross Hatfull (Lab, Valentines) argued the target for new homes set for Redbridge was simply too high given the amount of green belt land, making it “almost impossible” to achieve.

He said: “No matter what we do, no matter how we try to increase development, I do think we will never catch up.

“I think the only way forward is to look much more on a borough-wide basis and on smaller sites, even if it’s only a handful of units.”

He expressed frustration that developers sometimes were granted planning permission but failed to start building, as happened on the Harrison Gibson site.

Cllr Ross Hatfull

Cllr Ross Hatfull. - Credit: Redbridge Council

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He added: “What can we do with these developers to say get on with development? We are losing control of our own planning decisions.”

Cllr Martin Sachs (Lab, Barkingside) agreed with his criticism of developers, arguing: “History has shown we can’t rely on the private sector to fill the gap. 

“It does seem to me the only thing we can do is build more ourselves.”

Cllr Farah Hussain (Lab, Valentines), the former cabinet member for housing, however, laid some blame at the feet of other councillors who automatically opposed development.

Cllr Farah Hussain

Cllr Farah Hussain - Credit: Redbridge Council

She said: “I think quite a few councillors, some of them here, should reflect on their behaviour in the past few years and whether they have done a disservice to the borough.

“They should think about whether they have made the right and reasonable decision when it comes to opposing any new developments, just because it might win them some votes.”

The committee heard from the council’s corporate director of regeneration, Matthew Essex, that the council had “reached the limit of what (it) can realistically do” to encourage development.

He said: “We have made as many changes as we can on our side. The challenge we have got is (planning permission) is simply not translating into starts on site.”

He explained that the council would review its local plan, despite not wanting to so soon after setting it, and would engage with residents who felt the borough was overdeveloped.

He added: “Both of these states can’t be true, we can’t be failing the housing test and also have too much development going on.

“We want to open a dialogue away from the heat of battle of an individual application, otherwise the only time we have these discussions is around a particular scheme.”

A report prepared for the meeting noted there are currently more than 3,000 approved homes in the borough which have either yet to start work or are still in early stages.

The report suggested that issues of complex land ownership on large sites and delays to Crossrail may have “contributed to slow progress on major sites”.

The committee heard that a draft of the new Local Plan will likely appear before the council’s cabinet in the autumn.