Setting the record straight

We want to correct some of the things we’ve heard people say about the Morning Lane development.

The Mayor said that by buying the 55 Morning Lane site, the Council ensured that we will keep a Tesco store on the site.

This is not true. Tesco made the sale of the site conditional on there being a Tesco store incorporated into the development. Tesco have always wanted to remain on the site.

The Mayor has also said that buying 55 Morning Lane was the only way for the Council to set red lines on the amount of affordable housing and affordable workspace.

This is not true either. Setting red lines on affordable housing and workspace is the power of the planning department and the planning committee irrespective of who owns the land. If a planning application does not meet Hackney’s red lines it will not (or should not) get approval to go ahead.

The Mayor has said that the Option Agreement between Hackney Council and their preferred developer ensures that the risks lie with the developer rather than the public.

The site purchased was financed by the Public Work Loan Board. If the costs of development are passed onto a private developer the financial risks to the Council are nil. However the Public Work Loan Board (now abolished) is underwritten by the public, hence we all carry the financial risk. The risk to the Hackney public is the site being developed for maximum profit not for local need so that the Council can receive rent to repay the public loan. All the risk is ultimately carried by the public.

The Mayor has said that 999 year lease is good for the people of Hackney as long term income is payable for the length of the lease and there is an inflation escalator to ensure a return.

We disagree – 999-year leases are in essence freeholds and are no different from owning the land. So the Council spent £60 million pounds of public money buying the land only to give it away to a private developer. To get a sense of how long 999 years is, 999 years ago takes us back to before the 1066 Norman conquest of Britain.

The Council claim that you need to build two private properties to subsidise one socially-rented home.

A survey of 142 local authorities last year by the Royal Town Planning Institute found that the split in the new homes built in their area to be 23% social rent, 52% affordable/intermediate rent, 24% private rent/sale. This is not the 1 to 2 social to private ratio that our Council cites but a 1 to 1 ratio, or 3 to 1 of below-market to market-priced property. In the case of 55 Morning Lane the ratio required by the Option Agreement between the Council and their preferred Developer is 0 to 1 to 4 of social to affordable to market rent properties. In other words no council homes are required. We have not seen the Council present any evidence for this claim and it also ignores how social rent housing is a good long-term investment providing rent income and reducing the housing benefit bill. 

The Council keep telling us that it is impossible to build 50% council housing on the 55 Morning Lane site.

On the Holloway Prison site in neighbouring Islington, they are building 42% homes for social rent. The Plan For Holloway campaign demand is 60%. Hackney’s local planning regulations require 50% ‘affordable’ housing in any development. As 55 Morning Lane is public land, there is a very high level of housing need and the only genuinely-affordable housing is social rent, we are asking for this affordable housing to be council housing at social rent. Even with 50% council housing, this development will add over 200 unaffordable homes to Hackney Central. This article explains why we need substantial council housing to counter the damage this does.

This is the only image the developer has produced of how their plans for the site look beyond street level.

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