September 30 2014 Latest news:
by Jon Dean
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
A probe has been launched into luxury flats allegedly being let to wealthy businesses without permission.
The apartments, situated above Waitrose on St John Street, near the junction with Aylesbury Street, in Finsbury, are marketed by Oakwood as short-term lets – either for people on holiday or corporate clients working in London.
But opponents say the planning permission granted when the flats were built was for long-term tenants who would become proper residents of the borough.
George Allan, former councillor for Clerkenwell ward which covers the building, said: “Instead of going on the local market for people who live in the area, it’s become in effect a hotel.
“It’s in complete defiance of what Islington Council’s planning policy is supposed to bring about.
“How this has operated for probably a year or two without the council doing anything is beyond me.
“There is a big debate at the moment over foreign ownership of properties in London but this is keeping flats from the open market.
“No wonder property prices are skyrocketing when the supply is being throttled.”
Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “We need to make sure homes in Islington are helping people to live here – rather than get lost as short-term holiday or corporate lets. That’s why we are investigating these flats on St John Street and have issued a planning contravention notice, which we’ll follow up with enforcement action if needed.
“Meanwhile, the government has just announced its plans to deregulate short- term lets in London to make them easier – we are very concerned this will make the problem worse and make it harder to take enforcement action.”
According to their website Oakwood, the letting agent marketing the flats, are an American company founded in 1960, which pioneered the temporary housing industry and remain the world’s leading provider of furnished and serviced corporate apartments.
With more than 25,000 locations worldwide, they say, “when it comes to temporary corporate housing, there’s just one name you need to know”.
No one from the company was available for comment at the time the Gazette went to press.