• Redbridge toughs out plan opponents

Redbridge has put its Local Plan out for consultation, but the borough is facing a battle over housebuilding sites and permitting taller buildings.
The Local Plan includes a commitment to release the 60 acre Oakfield playing fields for housing development. The borough says it must remove key green belt sites from the designation, to create enough developable land for the next 15 years.
Redbridge is under pressure, as it achieved just 34% of its 748 annual homes target in 2014-15, and that target has now been increased to 1,123 a year. In the 15 year period the local plan covers, the borough’s population is expected to rise by 65,000 to reach 362,000 by 2030; as a result, it has pencilled in an additional housing need of 32,000 homes, or an average 2,132 per year – well above the number set by the mayor’s office.
Council leader Athwal commented: “The borough is in desperate need of new housing and we must carefully manage where development takes place and the form it takes by having a robust Local Plan in place. We have said it time and again – doing nothing is not an option.
“We must direct growth to the most appropriate places to provide much needed homes while making sure any development is sympathetic to the surrounding areas.”
Kam Rai, cabinet member for finance, told the Financial Times: “As councillors, and as human beings, we see people every day who are in a lot of trouble. We have homelessness, the housing crisis, people not being able to afford their rents. We have a lot of people in temporary accommodation across the borough or outside of the borough, leading temporary lives. All of us see the acute stress it puts on families. If we were to build all these homes it wouldn’t solve all our problems but it would certainly help us to achieve a good mix of affordable housing.”
The borough has come in for criticism, as it owns the Oakfield site and would, therefore, benefit financially from the site becoming residential development land. But at a lengthy council meeting at the end of July, committee members voted 34 to 22 to keep Oakfield within the draft local plan, as a development site that could deliver around 600 homes.
Also much debated was the plan’s new policies on tall buildings. The draft proposes three tall building zones in Ilford, East Ilford and Gants Hill, and an amendment to the policy was voted down by a majority.
The council is making every attempt it can, to improve the provision of housing in the borough. It recently completed an 18 home project itself in Ilford. Cabinet member for housing Farah Hussain commented at the opening: “Historically Redbridge has had one of the lowest house building rates in London. That is why one of the council’s highest priorities is to secure affordable housing in the borough to meet the needs of our residents.
“We are pleased to lead an ambitious affordable house building programme which will contribute towards increasing the supply of much needed affordable homes to meet our local housing need.”
The Local Plan will be out for consultation until the end of September, after which it will head to a government inspector for review.

LPA Perspective: Redbridge has been a long time plotting out the elements of its Local Plan, but there is still plenty of local opposition to some of its consttituent parts. Opponents to the development of Oakfields, a popular playing field for many sports teams, are unlikely to give in quietly; but the reality is, in a situation where housing delivery is falling woefully short, the borough needs to think radically about finding solutions. Rezoning a site it already owns holds out the promise that the ownership issue, at least, should not prove an impediment to getting the site developed.
Unless a larger, more strategic approach is taken – such as that recommended by the London School of Economics in its recent study – then all of the boroughs will continue to face pressure to deliver housing. And the Nimbys will continue to fight against the loss of open spaces, and of sunlight and daylight, as denser development and taller buildings are called for.

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