How Nine Elms is selling local people down the river on jobs, housing and the Tube

The Riverlight development under construction in Nine Elms

The Riverlight development under construction in Nine Elms

Guest post by councillor Peter Carpenter. Text of a speech delivered this evening at Wandsworth Town Hall

Let me first make it clear that the Labour Party is entirely supportive of the Council’s efforts to ensure that the development of Nine Elms results in employment and apprenticeship opportunities for Wandsworth residents during the construction phase, and provides long term employment opportunities for Wandsworth residents in the operational phase of the development.

Let me repeat, what Wandsworth is doing in Nine Elms is good, but as we know from education, Good is not good enough, we have to aspire to be Outstanding.  Opportunities like the Nine Elms development only come along once in a generation.  It’s our job as Wandsworth Councillors to ensure that we make the absolute best of this opportunity for the residents of Wandsworth we represent.

There are three areas where I believe we are selling the residents of Wandsworth short:  Infrastructure, Housing and Employment.  And then there are the 30 wasted Tory years when no development occurred on these sites – at a cumulative cost of hundreds of millions in lost Business Rates and Council Tax.

We all agree that a high intensity development is not viable without underground access to the site.  But the Northern Line spur to Battersea Power Station only solves half the problem.  Without connectivity through to Clapham Junction there will not be the capacity to get the required volume of people both into and out of the development area.

I know the Council supports the eventual extension of the Northern Line to Clapham Junction, but this they reserve until Crossrail 2 in the 2030’s when the connection will be needed by 2020 when the bulk of the development will be completed.  Even the proposed Nien Elms station is inadequate, all for the sake of an additional £5 million investment up front.

And this is the nub of the problem, by trying to fund the infrastructure up front through very high Community Infrastructure Levies, the Council has compromised both the infrastructure and the quality of the developments delivered.

Major infrastructure projects have to be funded long term out of the benefits that they bring to the community.  The Victoria Line has paid for itself several times over through the increase in property values and consequent increases in Business Rates and Council Tax along its route.

Which brings me to Housing.  Wandsworth is seeking 15% affordable housing within the Nine Elms development while Lambeth is seeking 40%.  I would argue that any community in which only 15% of its housing was affordable was not sustainable, and so contrary to basic planning policies.  Again the Tories are selling Wandsworth Residents short.  Where are the workers who are going to be needed to support the Nine elms development going to live.  Not in Wandsworth.

I could go into detail about how Wandsworth has got its sums wrong on affordable housing, but basically Wandsworth has based its calculations on the bottom of the housing market while Lambeth has based them on the top of the market.

The alacrity with which the Wandsworth planning permissions are being developed in the midst of a recession is proof of this miscalculation.  A miscalculation for which the residents of Wandsworth will suffer for the next fifty years, while the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Mr Luxury Yacht from China laugh all the way to their offshore bank.

So finally Employment.  The employment initiatives we are debating today are welcome.  But where is the commitment to the London Living Wage?  If the Olympic Site could afford to pay the London Living Wage, so can Nine Elms.  There is no point in generating employment for Wandsworth residents if it is poverty employment, which makes them claim in work benefits.  In these conditions the taxpayer is effectively subsidising foreign property developers.

In infrastructure, in housing and in wages, Wandsworth Tories have sold Wandsworth residents short.  They have been literally sold down the river.

(A video of the full debate is below, which includes my own speech on Nine Elms)

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