Almacantar to rework Centre Point

Almacantar to rework Centre Point

Almacantar and Frogmore are closing in on a resolution on affordable housing that will unlock plans for the £350m redevelopment of London’s Centre Point Tower after Camden council last night rejected initial proposals.

Mike Hussey, chief executive at Almacantar, said the partners were “disappointed” that they would no longer be able to take a fully “holistic approach to this strategically important London site” but were fully committed to resolving issues and lodging a revised plan.

Camden councillors last night followed the recommendation of planning officers to reject the scheme principally because of “insufficient justification for the shortfall in provision of on-site affordable housing”.

The decision follows hot on the heels of government legislation allowing developers to appeal if the viability of a scheme is being hit by the number of affordable homes required by section 106 agreements.

Surprisingly Camden council separately rejected the listed building consent application for the scheme, despite this having been recommended by officers.

Hussey said Almacantar was close to reaching a resolution on the affordable housing issues but the revised scheme would now likely come forward without the creation of a new piazza around the tower. Camden planners wanted more detailed modelling work from Transport for London on the impact of the piazza before consenting to the proposals and this work is still some way off being produced. TfL will now likely take forward this work on its own.

Hussey said: “It is disappointing that we will now bring forward a more inward looking scheme in some ways as we were taking an holistic approach. However, we needed an early decision to get the clarity we need for the scheme.”

Almacantar bought the 1960s-built, Sir Richard Seifert-designed brutalist icon in April of last year for a rumoured £120m in an offmarket deal. Frogmore took a 25% stake in November of last year.

The partners plan to redevelop the building as 82 luxury residential apartments. They are also proposing 44,000 sq ft of A1 and A3 at the site or around 18 units compared to the five small shops currently let to tenants including a Korean supermarket and a lighting company.

Also proposed was a new public space to be built to allow a major transport interchange to exit directly into a retail square. External dining will also be introduced. The road passing through and under the Centre Point Link Bridge would be removed and shops and restaurants introduced around the perimeter.

The scheme does not include affordable housing with the partners instead seeking to make a general public realm payment and an affordable housing contribution elsewhere.

Despite being broadly supportive of the proposals, Camden councillors last night rejected the plans, rubberstamping planning officer recommendations that there was insufficient justification for the lack of on-site affordable housing and also because of the absence of “sufficient evidence on the impacts of the proposed closure of St Giles High Street and the provision of car parking spaces on site”.

Camden is supportive of the scheme as a whole and its change of use from offices to residential.

Gerald Eve, advising Almacantar and Frogmore, last night argued that in order for the scheme to be viable the money available for affordable housing would either translate into four units within the Centre Point tower, or as many as 50 if they were provided on alternative sites in the area.

It is understood that the partners are close to reaching agreement with Camden on an alternative solution.

Planning officers wrote in their pre-meeting report: “The proposed loss of B1 office floorspace is considered to be acceptable and appropriate given the site context and information submitted with the Economic Assessment. The proposal would provide an acceptable standard of residential accommodation and would not have a negative effect on the residential amenity of existing neighbours.”

Recommending refusal however officers wrote: “In the absence of sufficient justification for the shortfall in provision of on-site affordable housing in accordance with the Council’s affordable housing target, the development fails to contribute the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing, contrary to policy CS6 (Providing quality homes) of the London Borough of Camden Local Development Framework Core Strategy and policy DP3 (Contributions to the supply of affordable housing) of the London Borough of Camden Local Development Framework Development Policies and policies 3.8, 3.9, 3.11, 3.12 and 3.13 of the London Plan July 2011.”