‘Dereliction of Duty’ – Richmond Labour councillor responds to anger over new housing targets

Richmond’s only Labour councillor has spoken out in support of the Mayor of London’s controversial housing proposals in the new London Plan.

Teddington councillor Jennifer Churchill criticised claims from the Conservative-led council that Richmond did not have the space or infrastructure for thousands of new homes, after council leader Paul Hodgins released an open letter urging residents to lodge their complaints against the plans.

The draft of the new London Plan, which was released in November, states new housing targets of 649,350 homes to be built across London in the next decade, 8,110 of which are planned for Richmond. The plan recommends 811 new homes to be built in the borough each year.

Cllr Churchill said: “It is highly welcome that Sadiq Khan, in the new London Plan, is going to increase the pressure on failing councils such as Richmond.

“The Tories clearly have no intention of meeting their responsibilities in this area – this letter is just the latest example of their dereliction of duty.”

The quota provided to Richmond council is the fourth lowest of all the London boroughs, and is the lowest target south of the Thames.

Some boroughs have been set housing targets in excess of 30,000 new homes in a decade, including Tower Hamlets which has been instructed to plan for 35,110 new homes by 2028/29, and 35,800 in Newham.

Despite the relatively low target, the proposals have caused widespread anger amongst many Richmond-upon-Thames councillors. In a full cabinet report regarding the plans, they outlined 29 separate issues.

These reservations concern a lack of planning, including potential sites for development, local infrastructure such as hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, a loss of family housing, and inadequate consideration of town centres as their own source of job creation, particularly in small businesses.

In an open letter to residents, Cllr Hodgins said; “We must remember what makes London such a unique and attractive city, and Richmond Borough such a great place to live. That means not only preserving the physical character, including our great parks and green spaces, but strong local communities and the distinct characters of our villages.

“But I am afraid that ultimately, despite its 500-plus pages, when it comes to Richmond, the Mayor’s plan for London in practice simply boils down to a chase for housing numbers which we will not be able to control. And those numbers are simply unrealistic without doing long term damage to our borough.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan emphasises the need for ‘good growth’ across a city which is projected to be home to 10.5 million people by 2041, outlining a strategy to deliver affordable homes that permit community cohesion and social integration.

In her response, Cllr Churchill stated that Richmond was the worst-performing London borough in terms of providing affordable housing. Between 2012 and 2017 Richmond delivered just 310 affordable homes, significantly less than neighbouring boroughs such as Hounslow, which provided 1,470 in the same period.

She said: “Cllr Hodgins says we don’t have the sites, but that is simply not true. In reality, when sites come up in town centres, like Twickenham Station and the old Post Office Depot site, the Tories nod through very low-density luxurious development.

“The housing problem in Richmond is down to a lack of political will, and a lack of political ability, not a lack of land or opportunity.”

The deadline for London residents to submit their views as part of the consultation process is 5:00pm on Friday March 2, 2018.

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