Dispute between developer and council over level of affordable housing on ‘Noho Square’ site puts plan at risk

Westminster council could reject architect Sheppard Robson’s £750m plan to build nearly 300 homes on the three-acre site of the former Middlesex Hospital in Fitzrovia due to the proposal’s “unacceptable” level of affordable housing.

The long-delayed plans for mixed-use development on the site that was previously earmarked for the Candy Brothers ‘NoHo Square’ development come before Westminster council’s planning committee this week.

But a report to the committee said the level of affordable housing provision in the plans was “unacceptable”. Just 54 of the 291 homes or 17.4% of the total residential floor space in the scheme are designated affordable. The council insists that 25% of homes on new developments are affordable.

The report also said that a proposed payment of £2.09m to the council’s affordable housing fund by the developer, a joint venture between Icelandic bank Kaupthing, Aviva Investors and Exempla, “should be increased” to £6.1m.

“The applicant disagrees with this and states that no more than £2.09m is affordable,” the report added.

The report also called for the developer to increase its contribution to the cost of repairing and restoring the grade II-listed Victorian chapel, which is preserved within the plans, from a proposed £50,000 to £300,000.

If the two sides fail to come to an agreement the site will remain dormat. It is one of the largest in central London, bought for £175m in 2006.

The controversial site was once part-owned by the Candy Brothers, who dubbed the development ‘NoHo Square’ after a property development in New York City.

Development halted after planners rejected the scheme and Kaupthing went into administration, after which the Candys swapped their 33% stake for a stake in a Beverly Hills development also owned by the Iceland bank.

Architect Sheppard Robson was chosen to design the smaller development, which also includes shops, a school and a medical centre.

Kaupthing and minority investors Aviva and Exemplar dropped the much-maligned ‘NoHo’ name, which was derided by residents around the site in Fitzrovia.