Wood Green church development turned down over lack of affordable housing

The plans included a three-bedroom ‘free apartment’ for the pastor, reports Local Democracy Reporter Simon Allin

Braemarchurch, Credit: Goodle

Plans to build a block of flats next to a grade two-listed church in Wood Green have been turned down over a lack of affordable housing.

Braemar Avenue Baptist Church, in Braemar Avenue, applied to Haringey Council to demolish the hall to the rear of the church and build a four-storey block containing a replacement hall in the basement, plus 15 flats.

Money raised from the sale of the flats would be used to fund repairs and restoration works to the church, which is located within Trinity Gardens Conservation Area.

When the proposals were presented to the council’s planning subcommittee on Monday, officers said providing affordable homes had been found to be financially unviable by an independent assessment.

They nevertheless recommended the scheme for approval, claiming its public benefits – including the new homes and refurbishments to the church – would outweigh the “less than substantial harm” it would cause to the conservation area and heritage buildings.

But the lack of affordable homes was repeatedly criticised by residents and councillors, who pointed out that the plans included a three-bedroom flat that would be reserved for the pastor, known as a “manse”.

One local opponent, Cathy Ley, told the meeting: “We are told the development would be unviable if social or affordable housing were to be included, yet there is a free apartment for the pastor.

“I have to ask the question ‘who is in the greatest need – the pastor or those on the council’s housing waiting list?’”

Another resident, Saara Idelbi, said affordable housing “must be viable” without the more than £1.5m costs of repairs, a free flat and new church hall “and you [the council] do not have an assessment showing it is not”.

Haringey Council’s planning policies state that developments of ten or more units should meet a borough-wide target of providing 40% affordable housing, subject to viability.

Council planning chiefs said the scheme would still contribute to the borough’s target of providing 1,592 homes every year.

Robbie McNaugher, head of development management, defended the viability assessment and said the development would not be viable even if the home reserved for the pastor was marketed as a private unit.

He added that if the scheme did not include the manse, the development would not be attractive to the church and would not be brought forward.

Committee member Emine Ibrahim said that even if the pastor’s home was let as an affordable unit it would provide a financial return rather than generating no income.

Mandip Sahota, from planning consultancy NTA Planning, replied that the scheme would still be in deficit regardless of the unit’s tenure.

Rob Krzyszowski, the council’s assistant director of planning, building standards and sustainability, added: “The assessment that has been done has shown [the scheme] is in accordance with policy because the viability evidence has backed that up.”

But Cllr Ibrahim subsequently proposed a motion to refuse the plans based on the lack of affordable housing. Five members of the committee voted in favour of her motion and four voted against, meaning the scheme was refused.