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‘Millions in profit but no affordable housing’: Cllr rounds on Hackney New Primary School development in Kingsland Road

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 September 2016 | UPDATED: 12:00 06 July 2017

Firefighters and neighbours protest outside Kingsland Fire Station on its last day in 2014. The fire station has now been bought by the government as the intended site for Hackney New Primary School

Firefighters and neighbours protest outside Kingsland Fire Station on its last day in 2014. The fire station has now been bought by the government as the intended site for Hackney New Primary School

Archant

Developers stand to rake in millions of pounds from the sale of 68 full-price flats above a school.

Firefighters on a march to save Kingsland fire station before its closure in 2014 Firefighters on a march to save Kingsland fire station before its closure in 2014

Ward councillor James Peters has slammed the 11-storey Hackney New Primary School project as a “commercial development masquerading as a social development”. If given the green light, proposals for the site of the former fire station in Kingsland Road, Haggerston, will see longstanding De Beauvoir landowners the Benyon Estate share sizeable profits with the government’s education funding agency (EFA).

The exact split is not known but taking into account the £16m cost of the land and building works of about £28m, profits could top £13m.

Malcolm Levy from Canonbury estate agent Alwyne Estates estimated the flats could be sold for £43m, not including the price of its ground-floor commercial space.

But calls for some of the housing to be affordable have fallen on deaf ears. People attending the school’s consultation meeting who asked about affordable housing were told simply: “The properties will be sold at market rates in order to fund the school’s construction”.

MP Meg Hillier (back row, right) called on the government to reinvest some of its own profits from the flat-building scheme in to Hackney MP Meg Hillier (back row, right) called on the government to reinvest some of its own profits from the flat-building scheme in to Hackney

Cllr Peters pointed out the plans run contrary to the council’s policy requiring new developments to deliver at least half affordable homes for rent or sale: “We cannot allow those putting up free schools and the Benyon Estate to make a big profit on a prime piece of land, without that land being used to mitigate the housing emergency in which we find ourselves.”

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier said she had urged the government to consider investing some of its own profit from the scheme back into affordable housing. “Hackney will be hollowed out soon if we don’t start dealing with the rise in expensive private development,” she said.

HNPS founder and governor Andreas Wesemann denied Cllr Peters’ allegations that the school stood to make a “considerable profit” alongside the Benyon Estate and “potentially” the government. “How could you possibly think that?” he asked the Gazette. “This is an academy, not a profit-making exercise. There is extensive legislation covering and affecting developments of this kind, including treatment of affordable housing and viability requirements for this, and obviously the EFA and Benyon are pursuing this project with very detailed reference to and recognition of the statutory requirements.

“Make the effort to understand the complete detail of a project of this kind.”

A Benyon Estate spokeswoman said public feedback following an exhibition of early school plans had been “taken into account in the final planning submission”.

Estate manager Edward Benyon added: “We have been an active part of the Hackney community for more than 300 years and are committed to providing local residents with high quality facilities to meet their needs, now and in the future.

“We are delighted that through our partnership with the EFA, we will be creating a new primary school for the borough, providing modern facilities for approximately 350 local children and significantly reducing any potential impact on the public purse.

“Under the terms of the partnership, any profit The Benyon Estate can make is strictly limited and will be used to support our ongoing development and renovation projects in the area.”

The DfE said project costs would be only published after the school was built.

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