Developers who want to indulge mega-rich overseas buyers by building super-size apartments are getting a slapped wrist from Mayor Boris Johnson, whose London Plan disapproves of “wasted space”.
Plans to build one block of large-scale apartments are set to be turned down because the homes are considered unreasonably big in the face of London’s housing shortage.
With the vogue in full swing among the capital’s super-rich for buying big apartments rather than houses, billionaire entrepreneur John Cauldwell had high hopes for redeveloping a former garage in Audley Square, Mayfair.
He was originally granted permission to demolish it and build a nine-storey block on the site containing 24 flats, a swimming pool and gym back in 2010.
The development included two 10-bedroom penthouses with up to 5,875 sq ft of living space — which would make them more than 25 times the recommended size of a one-bedroom flat. The other flats planned for the project were also exceptionally spacious and ranged from one to five bedrooms.
However Mr Cauldwell, a former car dealer who made his fortune in the mobile phone industry, did not start work on the project and his planning permission expires in February 2013.
Meanwhile, Westminster council appears to have had a change of heart about the scheme. Council officers are recommending his request to extend his planning permission for another three years be turned down because of a “failure to optimise the housing potential of the site”.
The sticking point is Mayor Boris Johnson’s London Plan which came into force last year. This blueprint for new development includes a clause requiring that all residential developments “optimise” the number of homes, in order to help relieve London’s housing shortage.
A report by Westminster Council explains that the proposals would fail to optimise home numbers by providing a small number of very large flats, instead of a range of unit sizes which could include an appropriate number of smaller flats.
A recent report by The Institute for Public Policy Research forecast that by 2025 there will be a 325,000 shortfall of homes in the capital.
Mr Cauldwell had been hoping to cash in on the demand for lateral living, particularly popular with all the wealthy overseas buyers flocking to London since the start of the recession. Lateral flats in prime areas like Mayfair attract premium prices. For example, a four-bedroom flat in nearby North Audley Street is currently on the market for almost £4.6 million.
A final decision on the fate of the development will be made by the council’s planning and city development committee which meets this week.
Mr Cauldwell’s spokesman pointed out he had only owned the site since October 2011. “Mayfair has a long-standing tradition of large, high grade accommodation and this is something we are keen to preserve,” he added. “We are working closely with Westminster on this.”