October 2013: record traffic of 2.68m unique users on newstatesman.com

What you've been reading during an extraordinary and record-breaking month for the NS website.

**Unique monthly users of www.newstatesman.com soar past the 2.6 million mark in October after strong online growth all year

**October website figures smash previous record of 1.84 million in August

**Thousands of downloads of the all-new NS app in its first two weeks

**Magazine expands to 72 pages thanks to growing advertising revenue

The New Statesman today announced record traffic to its award-winning politics and culture website in October. More than two and a half million people visited newstatesman.com over the month – a new high which follows strong growth all year and a peak of 1.84 million unique users in August. The latest figures mean the New Statesman now enjoys an online readership more than twice that of the Spectator, sealing its place as Britain’s biggest political website.

Jason Cowley, the editor of the New Statesman, said: “These bumper figures are yet another cause for celebration as we draw near to the end of our centenary year. But these figures are not an outlier: they follow strong growth all year.”

Cowley said: “Since the successful redesign of newstatesman.com two years ago, our in-house team – led by our web editor, Caroline Crampton, and George Eaton, editor of our rolling politics blog, The Staggers – have made sure more and more online readers turn to us to find the very best writing about politics, ideas, current affairs, philosophy, religion and culture. I am delighted that the website has developed its own distinctive identity. Its success mirrors that of the print magazine, which has just expanded to 72 pages this week as a result of buoyant advertising revenues and a significant increase in paid-for circulation. Indeed, subscriptions are more than 20 per cent up [on last year] in 2013.”

Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, said: “Russell Brand’s essay was a huge success for us, with more than half a million hits, nearly 90,000 Facebook interactions and 1,000 tweets. But in the same weekend, we had other, more low-key successes: a piece from our new blogger Ian Steadman which made the front page of Reddit, for example, and a great take on Educating Yorkshire which went viral on Facebook. It’s clear that this is no fluke: our traffic has grown by more than 400% since the site was relaunched in April last year.”

The New Statesman was the first British periodical to launch online (in 1995) and currently publishes all its magazine content online, free to view, a week after print publication. The website combines essays, cultural criticism and reportage with witty, irreverent and polemical blogs and social commentary. More than 40 per cent of the New Statesman’s web traffic is generated by online readers sharing content on social media.

The New Statesman’s powerful online presence has also helped to generate digital subscriptions via its new iPad and iPhone app. The NS app, a smartly designed digital representation of the magazine, has been downloaded by thousands of users since its launch just two weeks ago.

Jason Cowley continued: “Our digital subscriptions, including those on Kindle, are growing rapidly and we are now being read all over the world by people who are interested in good writing, original thinking and progressive ideas. We are especially committed to the essay and to long-form journalism.

“The New Statesman continues to reduce its losses and, because of the success of our centenary year, will be profitable in 2014. It’s a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of this great magazine.”

The NS app is available to download from the iTunes App Store and comes with a free copy of the magazine’s acclaimed centenary double issue of 12 April 2013. Digital subscriptions can be taken out through Apple (annual at £79.99, monthly £7.99, single issue £2.99).

 

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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