Mayor criticised over Vauxhall hotel plan 'jobs loss'

London Mayor Boris Johnson has allowed a Chinese developer to double the size of a new luxury hotel in south London at the expense of office space and the associated jobs.

Developer Dalian Wanda has dropped all 10,000 sq m of office space from its planned riverside development at One Nine Elms in Vauxhall.

Planning documents reveal it will mean at least 400 fewer jobs - nearly half those originally intended - being brought to an economic "opportunity area".

Image copyright One Nine Elms
Image caption The new luxury hotel will double in size after changes after an office space reduction was given the green light

But City Hall says the Dalian Wanda is being required to pay more than £20m as a contribution to extending the Northern Line, and building affordable homes elsewhere.

'Undermining office cluster'

The site, previously known as Market Towers, currently consists of two faded office blocks next to the Covent Garden wholesale flower market.

Dalian Wanda, which operates a string of top-of-the-range hotels in China, bought it last autumn when there was already planning permission to demolish the existing towers and replace them with two skyscrapers containing a mix of apartments, a hotel, shops and offices.

Earlier this year, the company applied to drop all the office space, covering seven floors of one of the towers, but maintain the level of housing, which will provide a far more profitable return.

The local planning authority, Wandsworth Council, approved the changes last month subject to support from Mr Johnson.

Its own economic development officers had expressed concern about the impact, writing in a report: "Such attrition of commercial space risks undermining the establishment of a new office cluster in the Vauxhall area (linking to the new US Embassy) in line with the Opportunity Area Planning Framework".

But a council spokesman said: "It comes with a guaranteed occupier which is an enormous bonus, it's a huge flagship hotel for the area and the contribution to local employment means more opportunities for local people to benefit from the project."

'Vast profits'

On Tuesday the mayor gave the final green light for the development.

Nicky Gavron, Labour chair of the London Assembly's planning committee said: "It's going to be the mayor's gift to the developers.

Image copyright One Nine Elms
Image caption Wandsworth Council said having a 'guaranteed occupier' for the hotel was an 'enormous bonus'

"They will make vast profits and there's nothing for local people. They are replacing all the office space and in return we will get a super-pricey hotel and more luxury homes."

According to the company's own estimate, the hotel plan will lead to a maximum of 500 new jobs being created on the site, compared to more than 900 if offices had been retained.

'Multi-billion investment'

The development borders Lambeth where the council submitted a formal objection to the loss of potential jobs.

Polly Freeman from the Friends of Vauxhall said: "The jobs will not be luxury will they? They will be cleaners, janitors and security staff which will not provide quality careers for local people which we were promised when this development came forward."

But Deputy Mayor of London for policy and planning, Sir Edward Lister, said: "There would be no sound legal basis for the mayor to object to this application and he is fully in support of a building that is just one part of a much a wider rejuvenation of a once neglected part of London."

He added that the 500 new jobs, new public square and affordable homes that are part of the development "contribute to a multi-billion pound public and private investment being made in Nine Elms that will support tens of thousands of jobs and new homes".

Questions have been raised about why the mayor did not use his planning powers to ensure the Chinese developers provided more affordable homes.

Of the 490 flats in the development, 52 are defined as affordable. None of the affordable homes are family-sized, nor for subsidised rent.

The developer is instead paying £6.8 million for affordable homes to be built elsewhere.

Dalian Wanda is also being required to pay £14m towards the building of the extension to the Northern Line, £4m towards Crossrail, and an extra £300,000 to provide employment training locally.

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