This is troubling us because there are strong reasons to believe allegations that H&F Council offered our homes on the Queen Caroline Estate to the previous owner, Ira Rapp (Chief Exec of WestCity Plc) when he approached them about developing Queens Wharf. We have nothing against new homes being built but we would be foolish not to wonder whether any informal promises have sweetened the purchase of this site in mid recession. So our first two questions are:On the A2Dominion web site they describe the Queens Wharf site as 'highly desirable', in an 'exclusive location' for their planned 'waterside apartments'. That's good to hear, we agree that this is a lovely location.
1. What do A2Dominion mean when they say they are "working in partnership with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham on the scheme"?
2. Have any of their partnership discussions involved the future of Queen Caroline Estate and if so, what exactly has been discussed or agreed?
But wait a minute - their new partner has designated this neighbourhood as 'not decent'! Isn't that going to be somewhat confusing for prospective homeowners, especially as they will have to pass through our 'ghetto' estate to reach their new homes. Unless arriving by river of course.
Note that A2Dominion only estimate that they will include 30% 'affordable' housing in the proposed 100 apartments (which will surely have to be high rise or high density to fit 100 in?). Estimates are not the same as guarantees and often mysteriously change when it comes to final planning applications. And 'affordable' should not be confused with social rented. It almost certainly means shared ownership and in this costly part of London that is really not going to be an option for those of us who live here now.
When questioned by Dan Hodges of the Gazette as to whether social rented would be part of the equation, a representative of A2Dominion declined to answer on this (click on the newspaper to read the whole article). Yet other than that they seem to have a very clear idea of what they will be doing, even down to demolition and construction starting next year, despite not yet having gained planning permission. So, another question:
Just to illustrate why 'affordable' is a controversial concept, we went to A2Dominion's own Web site to work out the current cost of shared ownership properties in the area. We couldn't find comparable 'waterside apartments' so you'd need to add a fair bit to the following:
3. Will H&F Council require A2Dominion to include a reasonable proportion of truly affordable social rented housing in order to receive planning permission?
Example: One bedroom 4th floor flat in the Goldhawk Road area (resale) with a balcony but no garden:
£112,000 (40% share)
(Full market value: £280,000)
Monthly mortgage (estimate) £827.67
Monthly rent: £320.71
Monthly service charge: £75.35
That rounds up to a total of £1224 before bills, food, fares and other living essentials
+ legal fees, moving costs, council tax.
+ if a deposit is required by the mortgage company this could be 10% i.e. £11,200
For this property A2 Dominion stipulates:
Minimum single income: £32,046
Minimum joint income: £36,808
Minimum savings: £4,000
Yet more food for thought: we have also heard that it is difficult and pricey to obtain a mortgage for shared ownership properties. Indeed, it is not universally accepted that shared ownership is the best answer to the challenge of creating affordable housing, as highlighted in the Times. Buyers coming in at a 25% share often find themselves stuck and unable to move on when they change jobs or start a family. If any of our readers have direct experience of this do let us know.
Our remaining concern with new development is of course the same as for any new build: what provisions will be made to help the infrastructure of the area cope with the needs and demands of 100 new households - schools, transport, health care, parking and so on?