London Mayor Boris Johnson has ruled in favour of the controversial Mount Pleasant scheme in North London at a public hearing held earlier today. The scheme was called in for a hearing at the request of the site's owner Royal Mail who claimed that Islington and Camden councils (who are both responsible for parts of the huge site) were taking too long over the planning application, but has been criticized heavily by locals who feel that the scheme is not appropriate for the site, and by the councils who feel that the scheme's 24% affordable housing is unacceptably low. However, Johnson drew criticism in June for apparently “compromising his neutrality” in advance of the hearing when he stated that the redeveloped Mount Pleasant “will be a wonderful place to live.”
Johnson approved the scheme after a heated hearing attended by over 100 members of the public and press, with many in attendance booing and heckling the mayor and representatives of the Royal Mail.
More on the hearing after the break
Boris has riled the 100+ public gallery by calling them the "audience" - so they're heckling and booing at pics of the scheme #mountpleasant— Robert Booth (@Robert_Booth) October 3, 2014
"I think the plans which the mayor is going to consider tomorrow are an outrage," James Murray, a councillor for Islington Council, told London Live before the hearing. "They are selling people far short of the affordable housing that we know could be delivered on that site. It's a huge site, it's worth a lot of money, we know Royal Mail could deliver at least 50% affordable housing on this site, whereas they're short-changing the public: they're delivering a low amount of affordable housing, and they're hiking up the rents on the affordable homes that remain."
In addition to a low quantity of affordable housing, the plans have come under fire for the estimated costs of its affordable units: up to £2,800 a month for a four-bedroom flat, based on the UK policy that affordable flats can be rented at up to 80% of the market rate.
"If you think this is affordable you must, and I will quote you Mr Mayor, be from the planet Zog":James Murray from Islington #MountPleasant— Robert Booth (@Robert_Booth) October 3, 2014
"This is not affordable at all to most people who need it," Murray told the Guardian, adding that Boris Johnson "has perverted the definition of ‘affordable’ and made a mockery of the whole idea that affordable housing is there to help the people who need it most."
Boris asks Islington how often it achieves 42% affordable housing. Briefly speechless at reply: 'In 2012/13 we got 46%' #MountPleasant— elizabeth hopkirk (@swix) October 3, 2014
The scheme, consisting of almost 700 homes in 10 buildings between 3 and 10 storeys tall, was designed by AHMM, Allies & Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Wilkinson Eyre. As part of the organized opposition to the scheme, however, local residents commissioned an alternative scheme by Francis Terry and Alexandra Steed, which Johnson described as "very beautiful" at one point during the hearing.
However, despite the public criticism of the project, Johnson approved the project after a short deliberation, stating that the proposals were "well-considered," and praising the scheme's place-making.
Stunned silence from opponents. Then calls of "Shame on you", "You've let London down" #mountpleasant— Robert Booth (@Robert_Booth) October 3, 2014