The planning system is weighted in favour of those with money

Friday, 7th August 2020

Belsize fire station IMG_9321

Belsize Fire Station

• CONGRATULATIONS to Tom Foot for exposing the Payments in Lieu (PiL) scandal, (Revealed: Dozens of cash deals to avoid building affordable housing, July 30).

It will come as a shock to many that Camden secures millions of pounds every year in exchange for developers not providing affordable housing. But I would argue that this scandal only scratches the surface of the rot in Camden’s planning process.

First, the PiL are supposed to be used to fund Camden’s own affordable housing ventures – and indeed they are ring-fenced to ensure this is the case.

But what we are finding in central London is that Camden are permitting stupendous overdevelopment to maximise these payments, but then spending all the money many miles to the north.

It is shameful that communities bearing the brunt of overdevelopment have no say in how the millions raised at their expense is spent. Some communities are exploited in order to benefit others.

Secondly, much more money than Mr Foot exposed is raised through the same means. While Camden negotiates PiL of affordable housing, they also negotiate payments for a range of other things: highways works, most notably.

Mr Foot showed that Camden raised £1 million through PiL through the Eastman Dental Hospital decision. But a further £2 million was raised through other payments, bringing the total to £3million.

In light of such figures, it is no surprise the hospital’s historic courtyard was demolished despite vigorous protest from Historic England. Why wouldn’t you destroy heritage when it pays so well?

Camden prides itself on two things: affordable housing, and so-called “livable streets”.

But the only way Camden can afford these things is through negotiating enormous figures in exchange for permitting development. This places a strong presumption in favour of overdevelopment, to secure the greater funds.

In other words, developers with money are seemingly almost guaranteed to have their applications approved, as they can simply buy their way out of not adhering to policy.

This is the real scandal: that in Camden, the planning system is weighted in favour of those with money.

Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee

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