Social housing tenants banned from using garden in Tower Bridge luxury development

Developer defends move, saying it will keep service charges down and social tenants have access to their own garden

Lamiat Sabin
Saturday 07 February 2015 13:51
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Horace Jones House in Tower Bridge for social housing tenants
Horace Jones House in Tower Bridge for social housing tenants

Social housing tenants have been banned from enjoying a communal garden linking their building to a set of luxury apartments in Tower Bridge, after it was initially said they would be able to share it with private tenants.

Glossy brochures for the new One Tower Bridge riverside development – with homes costing up to £15 million – claim that the garden would be a “sociable space”.

Under the initial planning agreement approved in 2011, residents from an adjoining affordable housing block being built as part of the scheme would be given access to the same communal areas as those private residents purchasing property on the open market, according to London SE1.

Now Berkeley Homes, the developers behind One Tower Bridge, have won Southwark Council’s backing for an amendment that blocks social residents – who will be allocated flats from next month – from using a garden which sits on a first floor podium between the two buildings.

Developers are often contractually obliged by local authorities to include some social housing units in return for permission to build in overcrowded areas.

It was unanimously agreed by the council’s planning committee to alter paperwork to prevent City of London Corporation tenants in Horace Jones House from being able to use the courtyard that has a fountain and lily pond. Tenants of the affordable housing will still have access to their own rooftop garden, which private residents will not have access to, say Berkeley Group.

Berkeley Homes, the developer of 356 luxury flats situated a stone’s throw away from City Hall, had said that allowing 43 social households to use the garden would drive up council tenants' service charges to unaffordable levels.

According to a planning officers’ report, the developer (which has already commuted £10.51 million to the Borough of Southwark towards social housing) subsidising increases in costs from social housing tenants using the facilities would also be “unduly onerous”.

A penthouse rooftop garden on the Tower Bridge development

Simon Bevan, director of planning at Southwark Council, told councillors that the exclusion of social tenants was “not seen as any significant restriction on how they enjoy their property”.

In a statement, a spokesman for Berkeley Group, said: “The Corporation of London had previously expressed concerns about the maintenance costs associated with their own communal roof gardens as well as the level of their service charge.

“These issues are exacerbated by access to the podium garden which brings with it a separate additional service charge that pays for management and maintenance of the garden, fob access through one of the private blocks and maintenance of the access areas.

“In reality, the affordable housing residents on this development will enjoy three times as much communal amenity space per home as the private residents. Every affordable home on this site enjoys two substantial roof-top communal gardens with amazing views over the river Thames, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.”

Southwark Council said yesterday, after being contacted by The Independent, that they are “happy to take another look at the decision and we will be speaking with both the City of London and Berkeley Homes about this matter.”

The luxury homes, set to be completed within the next two years, cost from £1.5 million to £15 million and boast extras including gyms, rooftop Jacuzzis, swimming pools, spas and numerous “private” gardens.

Lib Dem Cllr Adele Morris warned, according to London SE1, that “to the outsider this could look as if this is the private residents are being a bit snooty and saying 'we don't really want the Corporation of London tenants using our space'”.

She wanted reassurance that Horace Jones House residents would have access to enough open space to meet all relevant policies.

Lack of free land and the number of people owning second homes in the City of London has driven the local authority to secure homes for social tenants in neighbouring boroughs, hence the deal with Southwark Council.

Nineteen per cent of households in the Square Mile live in social housing while 34 per cent live in private rentals and 42 per cent own their own homes, according to official figures.

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