New homes for Richmond College site - but will they be affordable?

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

19th Aug 2022 | Local News

Old Richmond College buildings are to be bulldozed to build more than 200 homes. But fears have been raised that the new housing won't be affordable enough.

Planning permission for the demolition of the old Richmond upon Thames college buildings and redevelopment of the site was granted in 2016, including a replacement college, two new schools, new science centre, technical hub for Haymarket Media, sports centre and 180 homes. The college's new "state-of-the-art" campus opened in March 2020.

But Richmond Council's planning committee heard on Thursday night (August 18) the technical hub will not be built after Haymarket Media pulled out "due to the impact of Covid on their business", according to principal Jason Jones. The company has instead paid £5.7 million to the council towards affordable housing provision.

The replacement sports centre will also not go ahead as planned. Members instead approved an application to extend the existing sports hall, where the technical hub would have been, and build another smaller sports hall. A report to the committee says "both buildings will be smaller than those originally proposed on the two sites".

Mr Jones said locals would be able to use the new facilities. He said the new scheme "gives exactly the same benefits" as the original, minus the technical hub, but that these benefits would be provided for students in different ways through the college's "ongoing relationship with Haymarket".

Councillors also granted permission for a different residential scheme to that approved in 2019, with 212 homes instead of 180. The number of homes with more than one bedroom has been cut, including flats instead of a terrace of houses. Car parking spaces have also been slashed from 160 to 110. The homes will be built in blocks up to five storeys tall.

The amount of affordable housing planned is now 50 per cent instead of 18 per cent. But councillors raised concerns the extra affordable homes will be shared ownership, where people buy part of their home and rent the rest, rather than rented social housing. Shared ownership homes have increased from 28 to 80 under the plans, and rented social housing from 26 to 28.

Pascal French, senior development manager at Clarion Housing Group, said: "We believe the new application represents a significant enhancement on the previous approval." He said it provided a "much-needed increase to affordable homes".

But Councillor John Coombs said: "Our real need as a borough is social housing. We get two extra in this particular scheme. So I think we have to be aware that the form of affordable housing we're getting on this scheme isn't necessarily the form of affordable housing we as a borough need, however I do acknowledge that moving from 18 per cent to 50 per cent is actually very good – even though I question how affordable to our residents the affordability really is." 

Both applications, for the sports centres and new homes, were approved unanimously by councillors.

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