Letters reveal pensions secretary claims L&Q ‘misled’ the public
IDS called on CLG to solve dog track row
The secretary of state for work and pensions called on Eric Pickles to launch an investigation into London & Quadrant’s plans to build on an iconic former dog track, Inside Housing can reveal.
Iain Duncan Smith, acting as MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, slammed the 67,000-home landlord in two extraordinary letters to the communities secretary, obtained by Inside Housing under the Freedom of Information Act.
In a letter on 25 October this year, Mr Duncan Smith said he was ‘deeply concerned’ that L&Q had ‘continually misled the public, MPs and the media’ over its plans for the site.
He accused it of ‘disingenuous behaviour’, and of allowing the site to fall into disrepair. In addition, he claimed L&Q failed to submit plans for the site to Waltham Forest Council on 10 occasions despite informing residents it would do so.
Mr Duncan Smith wrote: ‘It seems to me that L&Q are now behaving like a property speculator rather than a social housing provider and I hope you will agree this is unacceptable. I now wonder if your department would be minded to investigate this matter fully.’
A spokesperson for Mr Duncan Smith was unable to clarify exactly what action he expected the Communities and Local Government department to take. Mr Pickles has since replied to Mr Duncan Smith to say it would be inappropriate for him to intervene in the planning process.
Greg Clark, decentralisation minister, replied in June to a previous letter from Iain Duncan Smith criticising L&Q to say he could not discuss the merits of the association’s application as it may come before him.
Mr Duncan Smith also wrote to Mr Pickles on 28 April this year to complain about L&Q but stopped short of calling for an investigation on that occasion. In that letter he wrote it had been calculated that L&Q was likely to lose £25 million if it developed the site instead of selling it.
The calculations referred to were carried out by a supporter of millionaire Bob Morton, who wants to re-open the site as a dog track, with the aid of a planning toolkit used by the London mayor to determine the financial viability of residential developments.
L&Q bought the Walthamstow site for an undisclosed sum following the closure of the venue in 2008. Campaigners believe the association is deliberately not developing the site and should have accepted an offer of £9 million from Mr Morton for the site in May 2011.
L&Q submitted a planning application for a 301-home development earlier this year but is revising the plans after concerns were raised by the Greater London Authority over adequacy of the proposed leisure facilities to replace the dog track.
Mike Johnson, land director at L&Q, said the association plans to ‘preserve the heritage of the site and provide around 301 new homes, a modern leisure centre, children’s nursery, allotments and new jobs’.
Regarding the claim of a £25 million loss, Mr Johnson said: ‘We do not wish to comment on financial assumptions made by others.’
August 2008: Walthamstow Stadium closes after falling admissions and the site is bought by L&Q
December 2010: L&Q issues an apology to MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Stella Creasy after appearing to link them with alleged threatening behaviour at a public consultation event on plans for the site
June 2011: L&Q submits a planning application to Waltham Forest Council for a 301-home development
October 2011: A Greater London Authority report criticises the leisure provision in L&Q’s plans