Row at UK Ballymore scheme over tenant access to leisure facilities

Sean Mulryan’s company and a charity appear to be allowing subsidised tenants use London gym and pool

Sean Mulryan of Ballymore Group. Ballymore’s Royal Wharf complex has over 500 taxpayer-subsidised tenants, living in 240 of the development’s 3,385 dwellings, as part of a scheme to allay London’s housing crisis. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sean Mulryan of Ballymore Group. Ballymore’s Royal Wharf complex has over 500 taxpayer-subsidised tenants, living in 240 of the development’s 3,385 dwellings, as part of a scheme to allay London’s housing crisis. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Developer Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore and a charity appear to have reversed a policy that blocked taxpayer-subsidised tenants from using a gym and swimming pool in one of the Irish company’s high-profile London properties.

Ballymore’s Royal Wharf complex in London, where homes sell for up to £1.2 million (€1.4 million), has more than 500 taxpayer-subsidised tenants, living in 240 of the development’s 3,385 dwellings, as part of a scheme to allay London’s housing crisis.

Tenants on this scheme complained that they were barred from using a clubhouse whose facilities include a gym, a 25m swimming pool, sauna and steamrooms, unlike those who own or privately rent the rest of the development’s properties.

However, following media coverage this week, Ballymore said the tenants involved did qualify for clubhouse membership, meaning that they can use the pool and gym when they open next month.

According to reports, the subsidised tenant’s landlord, housing charity L&Q, was not willing to pay a service charge giving tenants clubhouse membership, as the organisation argued that this was not good value for money.

Service charge

Ballymore had reportedly said that unless L&Q paid for all its tenants’ membership as part of its service charge, they could not join individually. Private tenants qualify by paying a £45 service charge.

The L&Q tenants argued that this discriminated against them. London’s deputy mayor for housing, James Murray, told the Guardian newspaper in the UK that the situation was “plain wrong” and vowed to pressure Ballymore’s management to reverse the decision.

However, Ballymore told the same newspaper that L&Q’s Royal Wharf tenants did have full access to the clubhouse, including family use. “This has always been the case and there has been no change in policy,” a spokesperson said.

Nevertheless, L&Q said it did not think the service charge it paid the company covered membership, and so was not included in its tenancy agreement.

Clubhouse access

The charity maintained it had marketed the homes on the basis its tenants had no clubhouse access.

L&Q’s tenants are living in Royal Wharf under Greater London Authority’s living rent scheme. They pay 60 per cent of the market rate to the charity for their homes, while the local authority pays the balance.

Media reports say that Greater London Authority spent £6.7 million to help house the tenants.

To qualify for the scheme, tenants must be already renting and earned a household earn less than £60,000 annually. Priority is given to those with children and who live or work in Newham, the London borough where Royal Wharf is located.

Royal Wharf is in London’s docklands. Its website described the clubhouse as central to the development and “a focal point for daily health and fitness classes, as well as neighbourhood events”.

Apartment prices there begin at more than £400,000 for a one-bedroom property while townhouses are advertised at up to £1.18 million.