Southwark Council is investigating after reports that children in social housing were told by a private developer not to play in the corridors – despite not having access to the estate’s gardens.
One Tower Bridge is a mixed private and social-housing development on Tower Bridge Road. Part of the development, Horace Jones House, contains 43 social rent homes managed by the City of London Corporation, which is also the leaseholder for the site. The entire development is owned by Berkeley Homes.
When planning permission was given in 2011, among the conditions were that the the tenants in social rent flats would have the same access to communal spaces like gardens as people living in private flats.
But Berkeley won a concession from Southwark Council in 2015 to stop social tenants getting into the communal garden. The developer argued that it would shoulder the extra maintenance costs, and these would be “unduly onerous”.
The planning officers’ report said: “Given the considerable amount of communal space provision that would still be accessible and convenient to the CoL [City of London] residents, officers consider that these residents would not be disadvantaged by the proposed restriction of the podium garden and the scheme would continue to meet the policy objectives of securing tenure blind development.”
Later, the Liberal Democrats accused Labour of “actively promoting segregation” – a claim which the Labour strenuously councillors denied. Everyone on the planning committee – including the Liberal Democrat members – voted in favour of restricting access to the garden.
Now the parents of children living in Horace Jones House have reportedly been told to keep it down while playing in the corridors, because they don’t have access to a garden.
The news, which was originally reported in the Guardian, appears to have sparked Southwark and the City of London Corporation into action.
Cllr James McAsh said: “In Southwark, we want children of all backgrounds to have equal opportunities in life and the chance to play together. As a council, we owe it to residents to make sure that developers give them the affordable housing or amenities they were promised.”
“We are looking into what Berkeley Homes agreed to provide in the original, consented planning applications. The council is already reviewing planning approvals in the borough and will enforce violations retroactively, if required.”
A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “We are aware of these reports and are speaking to residents about the matter. As leaseholder for Horace Jones House we are subject to the rules on access and children’s play which are managed by the developer, not the City Corporation.”
Berkeley Homes was contacted for comment.