Editor’s comment: Can we have our affordable homes now?

The Territorial Army site in Parkhurst Road has been the subject of a five-year planning battle. Pic

The Territorial Army site in Parkhurst Road has been the subject of a five-year planning battle. Picture: GOOGLE STREET VIEW - Credit: Archant

The delapidated old Territorial Army base in Holloway doesn’t look like much.

Not unless you’re the rather specifically named Parkhurst Road Ltd, anyway, in which case it looks like something that is worth paying through the nose for and then spending goodness knows how much money and five years bickering over.

What I find galling isn’t just that PRL tried to weasel out of providing enough affordable housing in a borough that has a waiting list of 18,300 households.

It’s also that this refusal to build affordable housing became seemingly a matter of principle, to the extent PRL was willing to plough five or six figures of legal fees (its own, the council’s and the government’s) into fighting its requirement to do what is manifestly the right thing – that it was happy to pay for a five-year legal wrangle, but not to pay for any affordable homes.

Without going too far into the business of viability assessments, because I am not a planning expert, the developers’ case was broadly that they shouldn’t be expected to provide the 50 per cent affordable homes Islington requires as a starting point – because they’d overpaid for the site in what they themselves described as a “competitive bidding process” in 2013. There was a huge discrepancy between what Islington Council thought the land was worth (£6.75m) and what PRL thought (£11.9m, based on a controversial valuation procedure called benchmarking).

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So what happens now? Hopefully, anyone considering taking the land off PRL’s tired hands will bear in mind the likely requirement to, y’know, put affordable homes on it – meaning they’ll only pay what the land is worth, which won’t be enough for PRL to recoup its costs. So is it too much to hope PRL might instead hang onto it and actually go ahead and build something?

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