Over the last few weeks you may have seen publicity by Fifth Capital about their latest proposals for the site. Given the calibre of their consultants you might not be surprised to be told that the designs are at least reasonably impressive. Having looked at them in a bit more depth, however, we retain significant reservations.
Firstly we remain unconvinced that Fifth Capital will build anything.
- We have asked them to provide information about their track record. They have told us about a number of developments but none of the documents provided or our own research has linked the sites or the development proposals to Fifth Capital or its Directors.
- We have asked them to provide information about their funding, just as Knightstone was required to provide. We even said that this would be treated in the strictest confidence. Fifth Capital have refused to provide any information beyond saying that it is coming from private investors.
- There is a history of coincidence: whenever the City Council has started to use compulsory purchase powers the owners, Comer Homes, have applied for planning permission which then undermines the CPO process. The applicant may be different this time, but is the intent?
Secondly we have reservations about what they intend to build:
- There is no through route permeating the site. This is one of the key principles in the Community Vision and helps underpin links with the community and a vibrant mix of ground floor uses. Without the through route our concern is that the site will eventually become a gated community.
- There are no proposals for affordable housing. This may change by the time they submit their planning application but so far there have been no details.
- While they say that there will be space for small businesses etc they have not said how this will be secured long term or how it will be managed.
- We are concerned that they will play off community aspirations for vibrant ground floor uses with wider social needs for affordable housing. They will tell the Council it is their choice. It is then likely that affordable housing will win. The ground floor will then revert to occupation by the highest bidders, most of whom will be corporate multiples.
- Introducing a London arts consultancy, Future City, to develop a ‘cultural strategy’ for the site seems parasitical when our own city is full of the skills and heritage needed to do the job.
- There is no information how, in the long term, the space for small businesses, community uses, workshops etc will be seured.
- There is no clarity on long term management. We would like to think that there will be a commitment to active management that engages with the wider community. We suspect it will just be another management company like any other block of flats.
What do you think? Come to the Community meeting on Monday 13 October (6pm at the Salvation Army, Ashley Road), write your comments below, or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org