Demolition of disused Newbury Park synagogue for 35 flats gets green light - despite zero affordable housing
PUBLISHED: 12:30 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:37 06 September 2018
Five blocks of flats are set to be built on the site of a disused Newbury Park synagogue in spite of concerns the scheme will offer no affordable housing.
Redbridge Council’s planning committee last night (September 5) gave a unanimous green light to plans to raze the former Newbury Park District Synagogue, in Wessex Close, and built 35 flats in its place.
Viability assessments conducted by developer Fauji Properties and the council’s independent consultants show that the scheme cannot offer any affordable housing as it will run a deficit over its first three years.
The developer Fauji Properties said that it will pay the council £250,000 to spend on affordable housing elsewhere as a condition of the application and offer apprenticeships for those involved in its construction.
“Despite the rigorous process we’ve been through - we’ve had two viability reviews and two QS reviews - it has been demonstrated the site is not viable for a number of reasons,” said planning agent Peter Higginbottom, speaking in favour of the application.
“However the applicants made that commercial decision in the hope that the value will increase over the life of the commission.”
“It’s a risk that they’ve taken but they would like to offer something.”
Raising concerns about the scheme’s viability, Cllr Shamshia Ali asked: “Are we going to have a site with half built properties? We are already in a deficit before we have even started.”
She added: “We are in desperate need of social housing, I am still not convinced.”
Conservative Cllr Michael Duffell said that the scheme was an “attractive one”.
But added: “I’m just concerned about letting some developers here get out of their responsibility to give the people of Redbridge affordable housing.”
The council’s local plan and the Mayor of London’s housing strategy encourage developers to provide up to 35pc affordable housing.
The council’s head planning officer Joanne Woodward clarified that the developer will be subject to a legal agreement to pay the promised £250,000, regardless of the schemes profitability, and expects the council will receive it “very early on in the process”.
She added that a Section 106 agreement will be drawn up to review the value of the scheme at several points over the course of its implementation to determine if affordable housing should be provided.
Cllr Michael Duffell also asked if the developers’ offer was “fair” and similar to those made for other schemes in the borough.
“They have made a commercial offer - there is no formula,” said Ms Woodward, on how the £250k was arrived at.
On whether the figure was similar to other schemes, she said: “No. It is very scheme specific.”
Ahead of the meeting, three people have submitted representations in support of the scheme, some making reference to the prevalence of alleged anti-social behaviour.
But twelve people also submitted objections to the proposals citing concerns over the height of the building and the impact on neighbour’s privacy and the character of the building in relation to surrounding properties.
And among these objections was a petition containing 17 signatures from residents on neighbouring Selwyn Avenue and Aldborough Road South.
One of the five blocks will be four storeys, a second will be three storeys and the three remaining blocks with be two-and-a-half storeys each.
Addressing these concerns at the meeting, Mr Higginbottom said: “We did some community engagement which neighbours concerned responded to.”
“The design has been amended to reduce overlooking to the rear while block B has been moved further away from the neighbouring boundary.”
He added: “It should also be noted that the majority of objections to this scheme came before the amendments where made an after we received four comment, two objections and two in support.”
Newbury Park District Synagogue was formed in 1968 in a disused London Transport canteen and moved to the site in Wessex Close in 1970.
The present building was constructed and consecrated in 1973 and closed in 2015 in a merger with Clayhall Synagogue to form Redbridge United Synagogue amid a dwindling congegration.