Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
At Prime Minister’s Questions today I asked the Prime Minister to intervene in the plans for the development of the formerly publicly owned Mount Pleasant Sorting Office. The Prime Minister said today he’d look into the application. I hope he means it. I have written to him today to give him all the details. As any open minded person can see this is an appalling deal for local people and for London. I am keen to ensure that Boris does not get away with taking this decision out of the hands of local people.
The huge site will be able to hold as many 681 homes. The developers have offered to build only 12% ‘affordable’ housing which would mean 81 homes, of which around 50 would be at social rents.
The Royal Mail Group have attempted to circumvent local decision making by asking Boris Johnson to call in the applications and decide them himself even though Islington Council has already set a date on the 10th March to discuss these proposals.
With 17,000 people on the housing waiting list in Islington, it is outrageous that the developers are barely offering 50 homes for social rent out of nearly 700 new flats.
Until recently the site was owned by the British public – and it was sold for a song. Independent experts have said the development could provide much closer to 50% genuinely-affordable housing and still make a huge profit.
I am sure when the Prime Minister looks into this, as he has promised to, he will agree that local people are getting ripped off by the developers. I hope he will agree it is unimaginable for Boris to approve the planning application with so little affordable housing – and he will not be happy for the Mayor to simply wave it through.
The Mayor does not have a good track record of listening to local people. Just this month he closed Clerkenwell Fire Station, just across the road from Mount Pleasant and it is expected the building will be sold off to develop luxury flats.
Islington Council will still discuss the proposals in the absence of an official application. It is expected that they will reject the proposal on the grounds that it does not provide sufficient affordable housing.
Here’s my letter I sent to the Prime Minister today.
DEVELOPMENT OF ROYAL MAIL SITE AT MOUNT PLEASANT
I asked you a question at Prime Minister’s Questions today about this important site, and you agreed to look into the issue for me.
I have visited Mount Pleasant Royal Mail Centre on numerous occasions, and it has been clear for a long time that much of the site is no longer needed for processing mail. I have been waiting for a development scheme which would make the best possible use of this important inner London site.
So I was very disappointed to see that Royal Mail Group’s proposals were totally inadequate -; this is a site which was until recently in public ownership, and it is clear that it could provide a large amount of genuinely affordable housing.
You have heard me talk on many occasions about London’s housing crisis -; whilst I am proud of the fact that Islington Council is building housing for social rent, it is clear that far too many of my constituents are living in overcrowded or unsuitable housing, and private rents are far too high for those on low or average incomes. We need good quality homes at genuinely affordable rents -; and we cannot afford to waste the potential of site like Mount Pleasant to provide these homes.
Islington Council and Camden Council had set dates to determine the Mount Pleasant planning application. It was clear that I was not alone in objecting to the proposals -; many residents of both boroughs had objected, and it was clear that the proposals on the table should be radically improved to meet local concerns.
Royal Mail Group realised that they risked having their plans rejected -; so instead of waiting for local decision-making, they approached the Mayor of London and asked him to call in the applications and decide them himself. He did not have to agree to Royal Mail Group’s request -; but he did agree, and the applications have been called in.
I have urged Boris to reconsider and pass decision-making back to Islington and Camden Councils, and I hope that you will now be willing to discuss this with him -; I am sure that Islington Council would be willing to provide a full briefing if that would be helpful. This is an important and urgent matter and your help would be much appreciated. Thank you for agreeing to look into this for me, and I look forward to hearing from you.
You can see the transcript of Prime Minister’s Questions on Hansard here.