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Boris starts bulldozer to build London's first land trust housing at Mile End

PUBLISHED: 18:36 20 March 2014 | UPDATED: 18:36 20 March 2014

Boris drives the digger at St Clement's [picture: Greg Lambert]

Boris drives the digger at St Clement's [picture: Greg Lambert]

Greg Lambert

Boris Johnson drove a giant digger in London's East End today to help pull down structures on the site of an old Victorian workhouse.

Boris ready to start the digger [picture: Jean Jameson]Boris ready to start the digger [picture: Jean Jameson]

But he was careful not to crash into the old workhouse itself—because it’s listed.

The Mayor of London was at the old St Clement’s Hospital site in Mile End to start construction on London’s first urban land trust which he gave the green light to in 2012.

The £40 million scheme involving the East London Community Trust comes after a 10-year campaign to tackle London’s rising housing costs when Ken Livingstone was mayor in 2004.

But it was Ken’s successor Boris who finally agreed that part of the six-acre site in the Bow Road could be used for land trust housing.

St Clement's hospital site in Mile EndSt Clement's hospital site in Mile End

“I hope this is the first of many such schemes to help ease housing demand,” Boris said.

“St Clement’s is part of a major land release the size of 290 football pitches to boost house building.”

London Citizens which set up the land trust hopes to holds Boris to his word. It sees St Clement’s as a pilot for an even bigger project at the Olympic Park as a lasting legacy for East End families in bricks and mortar.

The community trust retains the land, while home-owners buy the property on it at 40 per cent of the London market rate. Householders then sell back to the trust at guaranteed prices when they move on, so other families are not priced out of neighbourhoods they grew up in and can get a home that remains affordable for generations to come.

Land trust board member Suzanne Gorman’s family-of-five cannot afford to stay in their undersized, shared-ownership property—but don’t want to move out of the East End.

“We are part of the community,” she said. “My children go to schools here and it’s where our friends and work are. We want to stay here.”

The original St Clement’s built as the Bow Workhouse in the 1850s includes an historic Grade II-listed building that is being restored for public use. It became the Bow Infirmary in the 1870s, then an institution for the chronic sick in 1912 and finally an NHS psychiatric hospital in 1948 until it closed in 2005.

It now becomes home to 252 families, including 23 on community trust land and 58 in Peabody social rented housing.

A fifth of the construction force is being recruited from the area and a fifth of all building materials is coming from local suppliers.

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