Chelsea bids to seal off home market to help 'poor' local buyers

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The Independent Online

Apart from a fondness for 4x4 vehicles and waxed jackets, the inhabitants of Chelsea and the Yorkshire Dales would seem to have little in common.

But, if proposals by the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea are accepted, the two could soon be among the few places in Britain to ban outsiders from entering some parts of the property market.

The council of the "royal borough" has put forward plans to use legislation designed to create affordable homes for inhabitants of sought-after rural areas such as national parks. The plan is aimed to help long-standing residents on to the capital's housing ladder. With detached houses costing an average of £6.35m and demand for four-bedroom social housing outstripping supply by 93 per cent, Kensington and Chelsea is the most expensive 4.8 sq miles of real estate in Britain.

Under the plans, being submitted for approval by residents, all new private housing, including conversions of existing properties, will be reserved for people who already live in the borough or can prove a long-standing link with it.

The plan comes after decades of gentrification in Kensington and Chelsea, which is now home to an ultra-affluent assortment of celebrities, Russian tycoons and Middle Eastern royals.

If the proposal proceeds, it will put in place criteria similar to those that now exist in the Yorkshire Dales national park, where new houses are reserved for local people and sold below the market rate.

Daniel Moylan, the deputy leader of the borough council and its cabinet member for planning, said: "Although the geographical differences are obvious, we have quite a lot of similar problems to the national parks. We cannot build new homes because we have run out of space and housing is being bought up by people from outside the borough. If you are fortunate enough to live in Kensington and Chelsea with children, when they grow up they will have to move out. It hollows out the community - you don't see ordinary families in the area. We should be making room for them."

About 8 per cent of the domestic properties in the west London borough - 7,200 out of 90,000 - are registered as second homes, likely to be owned by affluent individuals.

Mr Moylan, a Conservative councillor, stopped short of saying his proposals were aimed at low-income families, saying he could see no reason to restrict the scheme on grounds of income.

All of which opens up the scenario of the offspring of established Kensington and Chelsea residents, who include Sir Richard Branson, the rock star Bryan Adams and the Harry Potter author J K Rowling snapping up a pied-a-terre in SW3 on grounds of their blood relationship to the place. The borough tops the chart of the most expensive places to live in Britain, with the average cost of a house standing at £827,180, compared with £194,588 for the rest of the UK.

Mr Moylan admitted that even if his proposals are approved by residents, they will only apply to a tiny proportion of the properties sold in the borough.Last year, there were 295 private new-build homes in the area, accounting for less than 1 per cent of the homes on the market.

Campaigners for the homeless said the proposal would also do nothing to help those in most need in Britain's housing market.

Kensington and Chelsea has 1,238 homeless households in emergency temporary accommodation.A spokesman for the charity Shelter said: "Only a huge increase in socially rented homes will solve this crisis."