Morning Lane: Hackney Council seeks new development partner

Morning Lane  People’s Space campaigners outside Tesco site in Morning Lane 

Morning Lane People’s Space campaigners outside Tesco site in Morning Lane - Credit: Morning Lane  People’s Space

Campaigners pledged to continue pushing for more public housing after Hackney’s mayor said the council is looking for a new partner to develop a town centre site but would struggle to make sure half the homes are for social rent.

They said Hackney council needs to increase the number of social homes on the Morning Lane site it bought from Tesco, which is earmarked for a new supermarket, homes and shops after a five year agreement with development partner Hackney Walk Limited expired this year.

The council bought the Morning Lane site, near Hackney Central, in 2017 from Tesco.

However, Hackney mayor Philip Glanville said it is “almost impossible” to ensure half the new homes are social housing on the site.

The sale followed the failure of what he described as an  “inappropriate” and “car dominated”  development “that did nothing for our town centre”  for a Tesco Extra and “Tesco Tower” with private flats above  to get the green light from  the planning committee.

Mayor Philip Glanville outlined plans to appoint a new development partner later this year now the previous agreement has run out.

He said: “I’m keen that we arrive at the best approach to create a fantastic development that will unlock the huge potential of this key site in the heart of Hackney Central and ensure that the council’s investment will bring long-term benefits for the community.”

He said the council has spent hundreds of hours listening to the views of residents and other stakeholders including businesses and campaigners.

The council has set up an in house team and “a new and experienced” development partner will be appointed later this year or next year following a public competition.

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He added: “It’s really clear that our ambitions and the community’s ambitions for the site need to be incorporated in any development.”

Morning Lane People’s Space (MOPS) said it will  continue campaigning to see the amount of social housing increase. Campaigners want to see at least 50 per cent there.

MOPS held a series of public meetings to talk about what people want for the site.

Residents said they wanted to keep a big supermarket there, rather than a smaller food store and pressed for homes they could afford.

Mr Glanville confirmed the hunt for a new development partner in response to a question at full council on July 20 from new Dalston councillor Zoe Garbett (Green.) 

Cllr Garbett said: “A large supermarket is one of the top priorities residents want to see in this site.

“The other top priority is they want 50pc social housing. It would be good to know if that ask is being considered.”

The mayor said: “It is almost impossible to deliver 50pc social housing on that site and deliver on all the other objectives including a return for the £60 million investment.”

He said the council is “very happy” to discuss ways to increase this with the Greater London Authority and housing associations and outside funders “but achieving 50pc social housing on a site that originally wasn’t in public ownership and is in our town centre and has to deliver commercial retail space and a new Tesco’s is going to be very difficult indeed”.

He said: “We will push for 50pc affordable, we’ll obviously try to meet the 35pc affordable housing set out in the London plan.”

MOPS  campaigners are meeting the mayor next month and say that they will argue that 50pc council housing is already a compromise and that new builds on public land should be 100pc public housing.

The group said: “Affordable is a term we no longer use as it includes tenures like shared ownership that are unaffordable to most Londoners. We do not need more private market housing in Hackney. History will judge; public land must be used for public housing.”

Campaigners welcomed the council keeping “strategic control of the development”  but said they had “consistently challenged ” the town hall over the scheme and that residents were not consulted on the original land deal.

They said they are still chasing answers from freedom of information requests they submitted about it previously and claimed the Hackney Central Community Panel  “is a test bed for the council’s plans designed to give the illusion not the reality of consultation”.

Cllr Garbett said: “While it sounds great when the Mayor says that the priorities of the local community will be put first, it is only because community groups like MLPS have proactively investigated and championed what people living in the area really want, and now it sounds as if they risk being sidelined by the council.

“The community needs to be treated as an equal partner, alongside the in-house team and the new developer, in the development of the site."

She said her group “will continue to interrogate the viability assessment the Mayor indicates precludes the community’s desire for at least 50pc social housing on the site.”