Westminster Council looks to block richer housing developments

Westminster Council looks to block richer housing developments

Westminster Council, in the heart of London, is considering options that could prick what many are seeing as the super-prime housing bubble.

The authority is considering whether to clamp down on giving planning permission for super-prime developments.

It is concerned that such schemes attract rich foreign investors who do not live in the properties.

Instead, says the council, rich buyers may let these properties out, driving up local house prices and private rents, while development land that could be used for several smaller and more affordable units is used for just one larger house.

The council has commissioned agents Knight Frank to report on the issue by the end of October, and is considering asking Parliament if it can hike levels of Stamp Duty and Council Tax for wealthy buyers of super-prime properties.

One option could be to limit the number of large homes within a new development, while the study will also examine other planning measures such as introducing minimum occupation periods.

Barry Smith, operational director of the council’s planning delivery unit, said: “We want to get some hard evidence on who is buying these super-prime properties, how much of it is coming and what effect it is having.”

He said the borough would also look at increased Council Tax or Stamp Duty to combat the problem, although he stressed this would require the approval of central government.

Westminster Council has more homes owned by overseas incorporated bodies than any other local authority in the country, with 7,300 units registered as second homes, equivalent to some 6% of the overall stock.

However, Westminster also has a very mixed occupancy, with over 1,700 homeless households currently on its waiting list for a council home, and warnings on its website that waiting times can be over 12 years. It currently only accepts people on its waiting lists who are defined as having a priority need.