Minister accepts Hutchinson’s Ilford project contains maximum possible

The housing minister has given the go-ahead to a £200m mixed-use scheme in east London – despite only 4% of the homes being “affordable”.

Chapel Square, in the centre of Ilford, was designed for Sainsbury’s Property Investments by Hutchinson & Partners which inherited the project from Unit Architects. Unit was shut down at the end of last year by its founder, Ross Hutchinson, after he split from his business partner. He set up Hutchinson this year.

Chapel Square was submitted in April 2016 but refused by Redbridge council and went to public inquiry two years later because of concerns over the level of affordable housing.

Hutchinson said the council changed its stance on the eve of the public inquiry which went ahead in October last year.

The secretary of state has now approved the 27,000sq m scheme after accepting that “the detailed financial evidence before the inquiry overwhelmingly shows – regardless of whether present-day costs and values or a growth model are used – that the amount of affordable housing being offered is the most that the scheme could viably provide”.

The scheme, on the site of a 1980s supermarket which is considered a key regeneration opportunity for Ilford town centre, will provide 683 homes, a new supermarket, offices and cafés arranged in 10 buildings and two terraced streets. The proposal also includes squares and gardens.

“We are very pleased that four years on from when we commenced work on the project that we will see the proposals progress to the next stage of design development,” said Hutchinson.

Cabe and the GLA praised the quality of design, as did the secretary of state and planning inspector, he added.

He said the secretary of state noted that while they found that 27 units (4% affordable by unit, 6% by habitable room) at first sight appeared low – especially when viewed against the 50% core strategy target and 30% Ilford Housing Zone target, it was ”the maximum reasonable amount the scheme can provide”.

Hutchinson said the scheme takes its inspiration from the rich history of the site, which from 1880 to 1976, was the home of the Ilford Limited Photographic Company.

The buildings vary in scale and form to mediate between the existing context of taller buildings to the north-east of the site down to the smaller scale of the residential hinterland to the south-west.

It includes a residential tower crowned with a distinctive “Ilford” sign, written in the firm’s original branding typeface.

Hutchinson has another Sainsbury’s scheme in east London waiting to go to public inquiry in October this year.