CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall told to stop developers ‘flipping’ former council sites for quick profits

10 November, 2016 — By Ella Jessel

How the site in Malden Road may be developed

A FORMER sports court that was sold off by the council two years ago is already back on the market, sparking complaints that the Town Hall is not doing enough to stop land snapped up by private developers being “flipped” for quick profits.

The site in Malden Road was sold for £2.3million in 2014 under the council’s Community Investment Programme (CIP) which uses cash raised through selling land and property to fund the building of new homes and schools.

But despite the Town Hall agreeing in the past on the need for “anti-flipping clauses” – agreements that stop developers selling sites on to make speedy profits – the site has already been put up for auction.

Owners Goldcrest Land are selling the site at an increased sale price of £2.7million – a potential profit of almost half-a-million pounds. Planning permission is in place for a five-storey scheme of nine “high quality” homes.

Town Hall chiefs argue that the new asking price, which is 12.5 per cent higher than 2014, shows the council received a fair price at the original auction and the jump simply reflects rising property figures in London.

But resident Tom Young, who runs a local architectural firm, said the Malden Road case highlights fundamental problems with the Town Hall’s so-called “North Sea oil” approach of building homes driven by property deals.

“You have to hem them [developers] in with covenants, but when you say this to councillors their answer is that if we did this we would get less money for the site. They only talk about the money and not the good things that would follow,” Mr Young said.

He added: “It is the ‘there is no alternative’ approach.

“The principle of it is that there are going to be some bad buildings, so we can get money to do good things. Any developer will seek to maximise their profit to put expensive profits on the site – that is predictable because the kind of buyer who bought the site isn’t interested in fulfilling Camden’s planning objectives.”

Labour regeneration chief Councillor Phil Jones said: “If the council decided to landbank all surplus sites that it doesn’t need and can’t afford to develop, this would mean another big reduction in capital finances on top of the government cuts we’ve suffered.”

He added: “Quite simply we would be forced to slash the number of council homes we are building and programmes to rebuild schools and community centres would be cancelled.”

Goldcrest Land was approached for comment but did not respond.

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