Lillie Square where sluggish sales have prompted a rethink by Capco
In July, we reported that Capco’s sales rate at Lillie Square was slightly less than one per week. This, we calculated, meant it would take Capco 35 years to sell the remaining 357 Lillie Square homes and the 1,314 homes to be built on the site of the former exhibition centres. And that was before any homes are built on the estates land or the rail depot. In September, in an article that appeared in the Financial Times, a property analyst suggested it could take a century to achieve all the sales that are planned across the whole site.
Back in July, with sales at the rate of one per week, we asked: “Can even this rate of disposal be maintained in the current market?” Well, now we have the answer and, not surprisingly, it is a big ‘No! Not on you nelly!’
According to Capco’s Trading Update for the period 1 July 2016 to 28 November 2016, the total number of apartments reserved or exchanged in Phase 2 of Lillie Square has reached 50. This is an increase over a 21-week period of just nine flats from the 41 that were reported as reserved or exchanged in the Interim Results for the six months ended 30 June 2016.
This means Capco’s sales rate has halved to less than one per fortnight, doubling our estimate for how long it would take to sell the part of the development with detailed planning consent to 70 years and across the whole site to 200 years, assuming this rate remains constant.
So, it was not surprising when Capco suggested in another Financial Times article, which appeared in October, that it intends to switch between 20 and 25 per cent of the homes for sale to homes for rent. Capco Director, Gary Yardley, said: “We want to create something people can be proud of in 100 years”.
But, at the rate Capco is going, even with converting a quarter of the homes from sale to rent, in 100 years time the job won’t be half done. That’s because, as the developer admitted in the FT article, and in an article published in the Daily Telegraph in July, it wants to up the total number of homes to be built across the whole site from 7,500 to 10,000.
Never was the adage “when you are in a hole, stop digging’ more apt. A 10,000 home scheme would mean a development that increases the total number of homes currently in the Opportunity Area by 13 times rather than 10 times, ramping up both the density of the scheme and the heights of the buildings, well beyond the monstrous development that is already consented. Surely, if the current scheme is too big to implement, how can an even bigger one succeed? “If the public and private sector works together”, suggests Gary Yardley, “we can find answers.”
The Council Chamber of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, where Councillors called on Capco to come clean about its intentions
Kensington and Chelsea Council, for one, is not impressed. On 19 October, meeting in Full Council, the Councillors passed the following resolution unanimously:
“This Council notes the announcement that CapCo is considering a significant change of housing mix and a significant increase in the density of its Earl’s Court redevelopment, which would impact on the wider masterplan for the area as reflected in the Earl’s Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area Joint Supplementary Planning Document adopted by this Council in March 2012. The Council also notes the very high level of public interest in the Earl’s Court development, as one of London’s major regeneration areas.
Such a change would require a new planning application to be considered in the normal way including:
- a reassessment of the community and transport infrastructure effects and mitigation;
- delivery of other requirements in the Local Plan strategic site allocation;
- a policy compliant level of affordable housing and, where necessary, publication of a financial viability assessment consistent with previous decisions of the Information Commissioner on the balance between the need for commercial confidentiality as against public interest in disclosure; and
- public consultation.
In the interests of sound, open and transparent planning, the Council calls on CapCo to fully engage with the Council and local resident and business communities over any proposal to change the scale of development on the site from that already approved.”
Hey Capco! What do you say to that?