Labour councils thwart Pocket plans in Greenwich and Haringey

Labour councils in Greenwich and Haringey have called in projects submitted by developer Pocket Living.

Councillors in Greenwich said the borough should be looking to undertake more of its own housebuilding through its development vehicle. In Haringey, Momentum councillors want more family-sized affordable housing.

Pocket’s plight is the latest sign of heightened tension between developers and London politicians after local elections in May pushed the political landscape to the left.

In Greenwich, councillors have called in a decision by its cabinet to sell three council-owned sites to Pocket. The sites, on housing estates, are currently used as car parking and garages. Pocket has planned around 150 homes in total, all for the intermediate affordable market, for the sites.

Greenwich’s cabinet approved the proposal last month and resolved to consult tenants and leaseholders potentially affected by it.

However, councillors stepped in, arguing against the sale to Pocket, and the previous cabinet decision. It subsequently went before a scrutiny call-in subcommittee last week, where councillors ordered the plan back before cabinet for reconsideration, where it may still go ahead.

Councillors argued that their own development vehicle, Meridian Home Start, was not considered to develop the schemes.

Local authorities are increasingly building homes themselves. A total of 18 local authorities now have their own wholly-owned development vehicles, with others also building through direct delivery.

Argent Related's Greenwich scheme
Pocket Living’s Greenwich scheme

Research by think-tank Centre for London said the 22 councils currently developing homes aim to deliver 23,600 new homes over the next five years.

The decision comes after more than 1,000 homes across two schemes were turned down by Greenwich, where the planning committee membership changed dramatically as a result of May’s local elections.

Pocket also suffered a blow in Tottenham Hale in Haringey where the firm was due to build part of the affordable element within Argent Related’s plan for more than 1,000 homes (pictured at top of story) across five sites in and around the bus station.

It is understood that councillors in the Momentum-backed authority wished for more family-sized affordable housing, as opposed to the smaller Pocket homes, which have now been removed from the plans.

Planning officers also raised concerns over affordability if Pocket units formed part of the affordable housing proposals. Previous consultation material indicated that around 100 homes were earmarked for the Pocket product.

Related owns 50% of Pocket Living.

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