Mind the Gap: Connectivity wins over affordability

By Drew Aspinwall

One of my London-based colleagues told me that the Northern Line extension (NLE) to Battersea Power Station had opened on Monday. Not living in the city myself, the interesting part of this piece of transport news was that the extension had been financed in part by the private sector, including the developers of the iconic power station, with the trade-off being a cut to affordable housing from 15 per cent to 9 per cent at the site.

Linking into Kennington the NLE has two new stations, Nine Elms and terminating at Battersea Power Station and is considered key for the regeneration of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea area. Wandsworth and Lambeth Councils have previously estimated that the NLE will support around 20,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs. There is also potential for a further extension to Clapham Junction Station.

Big ticket items such as transport connectivity are a key part of getting major developments up and running and can make or break the success of a new place or a location being redeveloped.

Negotiations in order to arrive at an initial deal between the consortium of developers, local authorities, government departments and other stakeholders behind the schemes are generally long and arduous, then there are often further changes as the project progresses or market conditions change. In this respect, this project is no exception.

Committed to the redevelopment programme of the area, in 2017 Wandsworth Borough Council agreed to the reduction in affordable housing, which in actual housing numbers came down from the initial 636 units to 386 out of 4,239 overall.

With a bumpy ride behind the redevelopment of the power station site, I presume the council’s move was driven by the desire to keep the project on track. Their decision was blasted by the London Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the time, who accused the authority of ‘waving through’ the change, describing the decision as ‘shameful’. Khan, along with Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, was in attendance at the official opening on 20 September.  

The NLE was funded by a £1bn loan to the Greater London Authority from the Public Works Loan Board; this will be repaid by a variety of developer contributions in the area, and through business rates.

With this improved connectivity in place and the Tube map now redrawn, the attractiveness of the location and success of the area looks set to soar. The reality for local people on average salaries who may at one time have hoped to live at the power station site is that whilst is now easy to get there, living there still remains sadly out of reach.