London Deputy Mayor Overrules Council to Approve Billionaire Duke’s Development Plan

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. billionaire Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor’s 500 million-pound ($646 million) plan to develop a site near London’s Tower Bridge was resurrected by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who overturned a rejection by local officials.

Khan’s office gave the green light after Grosvenor Group Ltd. promised to build more affordable housing, according to a statement on Friday. Southwark Council’s planning officials shot down the proposal last year because it didn’t offer enough homes for the city’s poorest residents.

The revamped design provides for 1,548 rental homes, of which 35% will be affordable housing, according to the statement. Grosvenor had previously promised discounted rents on about 27% of the units, below the 35% minimum that Southwark Council sets for developers.

“The site has the potential to deliver more than 1,500 new homes in an area of London with a high demand for affordable housing, close to transport links and central London,” Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe said in the statement. “It will also provide new facilities for a secondary school which is currently housed in dated buildings.”

The bureaucratic wrangling over Grosvenor’s proposal highlights the growing tension between developers and lawmakers over the chronic shortage of affordable housing in the capital, as average Londoners struggle to buy homes despite a slowdown in the property market.

Local People

Southwark Councillor Martin Seaton, who chairs the borough’s planning committee, said the details of Grosvenor’s revised plan mean that too many of the homes presented as affordable will remain out of the reach of normal Londoners. He said he’ll ask the planning committee to express its disappointment in a letter to the mayor.

“What we want to prevent is the idea that other developers can use the mayor as a way to circumvent our local plans,” Seaton said by phone. “We cannot be in a position when the mayor will ignore the local plan and undermine the confidence that local people place in their local representatives.”

The property group is owned by the Duke of Westminster’s family trusts, and its estate includes hundreds of acres in London’s upmarket Belgravia and Mayfair neighborhoods. Grosvenor, 29, the current duke, has a net worth of $12.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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