Festive fundraising to fight yet another Lambeth attempt to demolish

Recently, Lambeth  council once again approved the demolition of Ropers Walk at a recent planning application.  This is despite an elderly 83 year old freeholder not wanting to leave her home full of memories of her late husband. Consequently, we will be looking to take legal action against this travesty once again.   Thus, residents are raising funds once again.   

The latest creative initiative from the community are…

Hand-crocheted toads, perfect for Christmas stocking fillers and in recognition that Cressingham Gardens is the only officially registered Toad Crossing in inner London.  (£2 per toad)
Festive cards designed by our residents – the youngest artist being only 5 years old. Each comes with its own envelope.  (£3 for a set of 3)










Order form can be downloaded here: XmasOrderForm 

Or simply email savecressinghamgardens@gmail.com to organise collection of your toads and festive cards.

Judge gives green light for Judicial Review #3

Residents of Cressingham Gardens are embarking on their third High Court battle, after a judge granted permission for a judicial review of a decision to demolish their homes. 

Mrs Justice Lang DBE has ruled that Andy Plant, a resident of Cressingham Gardens estate, near Brixton in south London, can bring the community’s third challenge against the London Borough of Lambeth.

The date for the judicial review hearing has yet to be fixed, but is likely to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London towards the end of the year.

Cressingham Gardens resident have previously brought Lambeth council twice before the High Court for judicial reviews.  In November 2015, residents won against the local authority which had unlawfully resolved to flatten the estate’s 306 homes. Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing quashed the decision after finding Lambeth had unfairly dropped refurbishment options from the consultation.

Lambeth council’s cabinet then rubber-stamped the proposed £110m full redevelopment option again at a meeting in March 2016.  This repeat decision which was also taken before the High Court in November 2016, but was allowed to stand.  

Since then the council has effectively failed to engage with the community.  Lambeth dismissed a petition signed by over 50% of households requesting that the so-called Resident Engagement Panel be democratically elected and an independent chair be appointed, rather than allowing a local councillor to self-appoint themselves. The panel has not met since May 2018.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Lambeth’s development subsidiary Homes for Lambeth embarked on an online community consultation fully aware that digital exclusion is a major issue on the estate, with many residents with only poor quality or even no internet access.  Lambeth’s latest proposal, advised by Savills, is to salami-slice identifying an initial block, Ropers Walk, for demolition and rebuild, rather than start with a master plan, in contravention with the Lambeth cabinet decision in March 2016.

Although the bulk of planning documents were submitted in July to Lambeth’s own planning department, the statutory consultation was not undertaken until December 2020 in the run up to Christmas and at the height of the covid pandemic.  

This latest judicial review will look at whether or not Lambeth properly considered the heritage aspects and the setting of precedence without a master plan in place.  Despite objections from heritage organisations 20th Century Society, SAVE Britains Heritage, Herne Hill Society and Brixton Society, the planning committee did not consider Cressingham Gardens’ status as a non-designated heritage asset.

In 2013, English Heritage (now Historic England) decided not to list Cressingham Gardens, but also wrote that “We do recognise its local significance, however, and conservation area status is suggested as a means of reflecting its overall character.”   Lambeth officers cited a lack of time in their day for not considering English Heritage’s suggestion.  Only in 2020 did Lambeth start to consult on the Brockwell Park Conservation Area borders, but the council’s proposal still did not include a proposal to extend the boundary to include the whole of Cressingham Gardens.  The results of this consultation are still outstanding. 

The community is now fund raising to pay for the legal costs for the judicial review.   To donate:


Or donate directly via Paypal:


Cute mini-suitcases for penny collection

Do you have loose change around your home?

Cressingham Gardens residents are handing out these super cute mini-suitcase boxes as a fundraising initiative. Simply grab one of these little suitcases and when it is full, a resident can come by to collect it.

Email cressinghamcommunity@gmail.com to request a mini-suitcase.

Penny collection suitcases

Residents are raising funds for the legal challenge of the latest Lambeth council decision to salami-slice and approve the planning application for the demolition of Ropers Walk. The council and its wholly owned development company, Homes for Lambeth, with the support of Savills, pushed through the planning application consultation over the most recent festive period during the covid lockdown. They completely ignored the fact that many residents, including residents living in the homes directly affected by the application, have no access to the internet and thus were not able to even review the application. It simple terms, it was a “Merry Christmas, we want to evict you and knock down your home.”

The residents have to now raise £30,000 to fund the legal action.

You are also more than welcome to donate directly online at: www.gofundme.com/SaveCressingham

“Sanctum Ephemeral” Cressingham Gardens fundraising auction

One of our very talented residents, is doing a fundraising auction his prints. In his own words….

Carl, from the series Sanctum Ephemeral, Mark Aitken 2017.

Sanctum Ephemeral is an award winning Arts Council of England photo series, installation and photobook. The portraits feature residents living on Cressingham Gardens Estate, Brixton, London. The photos are an exploration of how home as a repository of memory defines identity. We define our homes. Our homes define us.

The estate has been earmarked for demolition by Lambeth council – against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of residents. The loss of home and community can’t be measured against the short term gains of property developers. All money raised from this auction will go towards funding a new judicial review challenging demolition proposals.

Online auction of two exhibition prints from the award winning Sanctum Ephemeral series. Printed on fine Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper (75cm x 99cm). Each print is from a series of three. Sanctum Ephemeral was a finalist in Portrait of Britain 2017 and won the national Open Art Prize 2017 as well as exhibited in numerous galleries and published in national press. 

Visit here to see the whole series and further information. And finally, please forward this email to anyone you know who might be interested.

Click on the links below to bid:

Auction 1

Auction 2

Billy & Tommy, from the series Sanctum Ephemeral, Mark Aitken 2017. 

Cressingham Gardens part-redevelopment given planning go-ahead

Cressingham Gardens residents are challenging Lambeth’s decision last night to bulldoze part of their estate – in a move they claim is “unlawful salami-slicing”.

Lambeth councillors voted 6-1 to approve the 20-apartment redevelopment of 12 homes on Ropers Walk, despite receiving 395 objections and just two comments in favour.

An 83-year-old retired NHS nurse who has lived on the walk for 33 years has accused Lambeth of harassing her out of her home. Her objection was published by Lambeth council on its planning portal.

Ahead of last night’s meeting held on Zoom, a forcefully worded letter was submitted to the Planning Application Committee by lawyers representing the community.

The letter, downloadable here , lists a number of ongoing serious concerns over the lawfulness of the planning bid and alleges parts of the process have been misleading.

However, only one member of the committee, Green Party councillor Becca Thackeray, agreed with the community’s concerns and the plan was passed.

Residents are considering next steps for the challenge, to be announced soon.


Where to donate to Save Cressingham Gardens Fighting Fund:


Cressingham part-development is “unlawful salami-slicing”, lawyers claim

Lambeth received its own Christmas present from Cressingham Gardens residents in the form of a legal letter explaining how it would flout planning laws if it green lights the new development on Cressingham Gardens.

Among the concerns raised, are that the redevelopment of one block, without the promised masterplan, is designed to flout environmental obligations.

The legal objections also highlight:

  • Inappropriate development for location
  • The misidentification of a mature English Oak as a less valued Turkey Oak.
  • The marginal benefit of additional affordable homes being outweighed by many more negatives
  • Application should be delayed until after review of Brockwell Park Conservation Area boundary
  • Impact on daylight access for neighbouring estate homes not considered

Read the letter here:

For more information on how to object, read further here: https://bit.ly/DoubleConsultation .

Cressingham Gardens dealt a nasty double consultation for Christmas …

Lambeth Council, its property development company Homes for Lambeth and its advisors Savills, appear to have concurred that Christmas time is the perfect time to consult the residents of Cressingham Gardens and the wider community. Demolition and destruction of people’s homes full of memories are just the things that every person wants to talk about (not) over Christmas dinner. And yet, to make it truly jolly, Lambeth council has decided to double down on this tactic and to do TWO consultations in parallel that relate to Cressingham Gardens and the council’s intended destruction of the community.

What to do?

We need as many people as possible to feed into the consultations. Please spread the word.

Click on the links below for more details on …

  1. Consultation 1: How to object to the demolition of Ropers Walk (phase 1 of Cressingham Gardens demolition)

2. Consultation 2: How to request the inclusion of Cressingham Gardens in the Brockwell Park Conservation Area

3. How to donate to the Save Cressingham Gardens Fighting Fund

Cressingham demolition plan relaunched for Christmas.

Twelve homes on Roper’s Walk/Trinity Rise to be demolished in “step one” of full Cressingham Gardens redevelopment plan. Estate regeneration scheme opposed by majority of residents: more than 1000 people at risk of displacement. Plans threaten environment, affordability, community and health of residents.

Campaigners are warning that a plan to demolish 12 homes on Cressingham Gardens Estate is just the “thin end of the wedge” for the destruction of all 300 homes.

Plans to redevelop Roper’s Walk, by Lambeth council’s development vehicle “Homes for Lambeth”, went live on on December 4.

Under the plans the houses and flats, located at the southeastern end of the estate adjoining Trinity Rise, would be replaced by 20 apartments.

A retired NHS nurse aged in her 80’s is among those facing the prospect of home loss in the coming months, but she has vowed to fight the plans.

Only a fraction of the estate’s residents had been contacted nearly a week into the public consultation – with a looming deadline for comments on December 21, just days before Christmas.

Those who have been notified about the consultation have reacted angrily to the timing of the announcement, describing Lambeth’s cruel Christmas consultation during the Covid pandemic, as “shocking but not surprising”.

Lambeth had apparently made no progress since 2012, when proposals were first mooted, and residents had been hoping the council would give up on its ambition to flatten their homes.

There is a long history of the council treating residents unfairly over its plans for the estate and the community has twice been forced to challenge Lambeth in court, winning a judicial review in 2015.

Throughout the ordeal, Lambeth has never produced a masterplan for the proposed redesigned estate, despite spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on consultants.

Residents, a majority of whom are opposed to demolition, recently won the legal right to manage the estate for themselves. The resident management organisation employed an estate director last year and is poised to sign a management agreement in 2021.

The government has also given residents the green light to explore transferring the ownership of the estate into community hands.

The community has produced an alternative People’s Plan which has the potential to provide 37 extra homes at council rent levels without forcing any residents out of their homes.

This would cost a fraction in contrast with Lambeth’s £120m estate-wide scheme, which at the last count offers just 27 extra additional council rent level homes across the estate.

Lambeth’s piecemeal plan for Roper’s Walk is intended to set a precedent for developing the wider scheme.

However, without a masterplan for the whole estate, the approach is widely considered to be incoherent.

How to Submit to the Consultation:

Objections have to be submitted electronically via Lambeth’s Planning application database.

Go via this direct link to the planning application:

Or search for the application reference 20/02406/RG3 in the planning database

Where to donate to Save Cressingham Gardens Fighting Fund:


Suggested points that can be included in objections to the planning consultation:

  • No Master Plan – The masterplan for the entire estate should be approved before Roper’s Walk application. Lambeth Local Plan states that when working out affordable housing it has to be part of a wider strategy.
  • Design doesn’t promote community cohesiveness. ASB built into design. – The existing design of Ropers Walk promotes neighbourliness – vital for vulnerable or isolated residents. The new proposed bock design puts residents at increased risk of loneliness and domestic violence. Furthermore, the design is poorly integrated into the rest of Cressingham Gardens, resulting in a long blocked off passageway next to Brockwell Park that will be a clear target for anti-social behaviour.
  • Poor design in light of covid risks – The community that is expected to be rehoused here is ~60% BAME and a high proportion are vulnerable (elderly & medical conditions). The design is high risk for Covid-19: e.g. communal entrance doors and narrow internal corridors. The existing building provides for direct access to front doors (ie no communal doors) and external walkways.
  • Loss of 90 year old trees – Three mature ~90 year old trees (English Oak, Lime & Yew) that pre-date the build of Cressingham Gardens are to be removed under the proposed development. This is in contravention of Lambeth’s own Local Plan (2015), Policy Q10: “development will not be permitted that would result in the loss of trees of significant amenity, historic or ecological/habitat value”.
  • Design is ugly and lacks distinctiveness – Lambeth’s own Local Plan (2015), Policy Q5 (local distinctiveness) requires that proposals should respond to local context and historic character in terms of townscape and landscape. The proposal has none of this. Furthermore, it will set a precedent for proposals for the rest of Cressingham Gardens, which is located on 10ha directly next to the beautiful Brockwell Park. It is a threat to “one of the nicest small housing schemes in England” (Lord Esher, past president of RIBA).
  • Negative impact on the Brockwell Park Conservation Area – Cressingham Gardens directly borders the Brockwell Park Conservation Area. Lambeth’s own Local Plan (2015), Policy Q22 (conservation areas), states that development proposals affecting conservation areas will only be permitted where they preserve the character or appearance of conservation areas by, among other things, protecting the setting including views in and out of the area. The height and massing of the proposed will impact the views from within the conservation area, as well as completely dominating the neighbouring properties. Furthermore, Cressingham Gardens should be included within the boundary of the conservation area in accordance with English Heritage’s report (click here to see how to comment on parallel consultation regarding the conservation area boundary extensions).
  • Loss of light and privacy – Height and mass of the proposed block will cut neighbours’ light and privacy.
  • Climate impact – Demolition will release embedded carbon during climate crisis.
  • Air pollution during construction including asbestos risk – Much dust and air pollutants will result during the construction in an area where there is a high proportion of vulnerable residents (elderly and health risks). Also, as with all 1970s build properties, asbestos is present. The asbestos is safe provided it is not disturbed and when it is removed, it requires very careful procedures. High risk that in adequate procedures are put in place. The current Homes for Lambeth development on the Westbury estate has resulted in at least one resident in a neighbouring property being hospitalised due to air pollutants during construction.
  • No financial viability – Homes for Lambeth claims that they don’t have to produce a financial viability report as the block will be 100% “affordable”. However, as the development is being underwritten by taxpayers, a report should still be produced showing the sources of funding and whether the development will pay for itself. As seen by the recent problems in Croydon and its wholly owned development company Brick by Brick, there is a high financial risk to the council.
  • Lack of genuine affordability – Homes for Lambeth claims all 20 new Ropers Walk homes will be “affordable”, with 70% at council-level rents and 30% shared ownership. What they don’t mention is that :
    • the scheme offers just 3 extra homes at council rent levels,
    • the council rents will rise 20-25 per cent
    • the share ownership properties are not genuinely affordable – similar shared ownership schemes require minimum £50k household income (median household income in Tulse Hill ward is £29k) – and Shared ownership is a poor deal for homeowners as they are forced to pay mortgages, 100% service charges and rent.
  • Parking Stress – The proposal provides for zero car parking within the site with the two disabled bays being placed on the Trinity Rise road.
  • Lack of consideration of local wildlife – Cressingham Gardens is home to the common toad and bats. The common toad is prevalent across the estate and is a Priority Species. Nevertheless, the Homes for Lambeth application claims that there is no evident of any such wildlife.
Homes for Lambeth proposed new building

Support the inclusion of Cressingham Gardens into the Brockwell Park Conservation Area

We are urging Lambeth Council to include the entire estate in the Brockwell Park Conservation Area (BPCA) as part of a review open to public consultation.

Organisations and Lambeth residents, including supporters of the threatened estate and park, can comment on boundary proposals and a draft character appraisal until 11 January 2021.

The consultation is part of a cyclic review of the borough’s conservation areas. 

It comes seven years after English Heritage first strongly suggested the boundaries of the BPCA could be extended to include the whole of Cressingham Gardens in December 2013. The campaign Save Cressingham Gardens first wrote to the borough’s head of conservation Doug Black to push for the extension in April 2015, in a move backed by conservation groups Friends of Brockwell Park, The Brixton Society, Twentieth Century Society, and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.  Mr Black told the signatories that there were not enough resources to give the request proper consideration.

The green mounds, which are a central feature of the estate near the Main Cressingham Gardens gate to Brockwell Park, are already protected under the BPCA.  The other “green finger” communal areas adjoining the park should similarly be included in the BCPA at a minimum, if not the entirety of the estate.  Cressingham Gardens is important both for its environmental integration to Brockwell Park (e.g. home to wildlife such as toads and bats, as well as many trees over 90 years old that predate Cressingham Gardens itself) as well as its architectural heritage and importance. 

The review is therefore a timely opportunity to spotlight the threat to the park’s landscape and character, which the estate’s redevelopment poses.

How to Submit to the Consultation:

The consultation webpage is here:


To go direct to the current proposal:


To submit the consultation, email:  planningconservation@lambeth.gov.uk

Where to donate to Save Cressingham Gardens Fighting Fund:


Suggested points that members of the public could include in comments to the consultation:

Urge Lambeth to revisit the relevant part of the listing report from English Heritage (now Historic England), which is the government’s adviser on conservation. This includes praise for and comment on:

The successful integration of the estate with the “major asset” of Brockwell Park. The report remarks that the open and informal design takes advantage of and complements the green and natural setting.

The character is currently protected to a degree by the designation of the estate’s central open space within the existing conservation area. However, it was the clear view of English Heritage that additional designation should be afforded to protect the appearance of the site along with the particular low-rise mid-century character of the development and its “green fingers”: the spaces running from the park’s edge and between the buildings. 

As the conservation area comes into the estate itself, designation by extension is entirely logical and almost implicit in the way the boundary is drawn at this point.

In relation to the natural environment, the estate was designed around the trees, it sits below the tree line, and there is substantial and informal planting. The trees would be specially protected in a conservation area, thereby preserving the intended effect of bringing the park into the estate. The planting at Cressingham is similar to the approach used by Eric Lyons at the now grade II-listed Span estate at Parkleys, in Ham, and the conservation designated Fieldend in Strawberry Hill, and which no doubt influenced Cressingham under Ted Hollamby. 

Excerpts from the English Heritage report:

“Lambeth produced a large body of housing under Ted Hollamby, and it is in the smaller schemes of the 1970s, including Cressingham Gardens, where the qualities of contextualism, humanity and community-centric design are most in evidence. Cressingham Gardens adopts building types and forms used elsewhere on other Lambeth schemes… 

“However, where Cressingham is distinct from a number of other Lambeth developments is in the informality and spatial interest of its planning. The topography of the site is exploited, and the blocks are off-set or otherwise arranged, to create a sense of townscape. At its most successful, such as the view west along Chandler’s Walk [sic (Way)], enclosed by the garden walls to one side, and the row of bungalows to the other, the planning is exceptional.” 

While the architectural quality was not considered to be consistent enough for listing, the informality that held it back in this respect, is crucial to the park-side feel, and boosts the case for conservation:

“Outside of the environment created by the Walks, the interest of the estate comes not from the architectural quality of the structural elements, but from the quality of the spaces left in between; in some cases this is a tightly controlled relationship between built elements (as at Chandlers Way), but in a number of cases this is dependent on the quality of the natural environment to distinguish it, and there is little in the way of structured, or planned landscaping within some of these areas. This point is not a criticism of the scheme, it is part of what gives the estate its character, but does highlight one of the problems that Cressingham Gardens presents as a listing candidate. 

“The estate is a strong example of the important legacy of progressive public housing that Ted Hollamby and his department brought to Lambeth. [List of other London schemes]. The nature of the planning at Cressingham is very different, and this is part of its interest and value… Cressingham stands out for the informality of its planning, which reflects the careful respect paid to Brockwell Park, but listing can only recognise structures, not the open spaces between them…

“However, it is considered that the estate could benefit from greater formal recognition as a successful and popular housing scheme which achieves a particularly careful contextual response to its sensitive setting, adjacent to Brockwell Park Conservation Area. 

“It is also one of the more interesting housing schemes from this important period in the development of social housing, produced by one of the most progressive authorities. Cressingham Gardens has strong local interest and for this reason it is felt that a future reappraisal of the boundaries of Brockwell Park Conservation Area should give serious consideration to whether the estate should be included within it, in a similar way to previous extensions of the conservation area boundaries have encompassed other areas of housing of historic value adjacent to the park. 

“As acknowledged in the Brockwell Park Conservation Area Extension Report of 1999, the park is a ‘major asset and is extremely important to preserve and maintain its setting and the residential nature and scale of the built environment surrounding it’. Cressingham Gardens is a testament to the fact that despite pressure for high density development, Ted Hollamby and his department were equally conscious of the importance of the park’s setting and produced a scheme which responded to this with skill and sensitivity, both in the scale and massing of the built elements, as well as through the integration of these elements with informal open spaces which bring a park-like character into the estate.”

Conclusion (p 5): 

“We do recognise its local significance, however, and conservation area status is suggested as a means of reflecting its overall character.”

Earlier on in the report, Lambeth’s arguments against listing are summarised as largely centring around the qualities at Cressingham not being special in terms of the era and Hollamby’s projects elsewhere in the borough. There are around 45 estates listed as part of Hollamby’s output: English Heritage singles out just three for special praise, and one of them is Cressingham, the only large estate of the three. However, for the purposes of considering Cressingham for conservation, the relationship to the other developments of the era need not be a factor. English Heritage’s advice on conservation focuses strongly on the particular setting and the need to protect Cressingham as part of this. As such there is no need to consider it in relation to other estates of the period, elsewhere in the borough.

Cressingham Gardens responds to London Mayor’s consultation on ballots…

Question 1: Do you agree that the GLA should make resident ballots a funding condition for estate regeneration schemes?


Question 2: Do you agree with the proposed criteria that would trigger the requirement for a resident ballot? Why/why not?

The language of the consultation document does not make clear what the proposed criteria are, as there is no section headed ‘Criteria’. For the purposes of this response, we assume that the section “Requirements for resident ballots” covers the criteria.

However, assuming what we can determine are possibly the proposed criteria, we do not entirely agree:

  1. The funding condition of a ballot should be applied to all estate regenerations that are pre-planning approval stage, including where “contracts” have been purportedly been signed (see comments and arguments in response to question 14).
  2. Trigger should be where any homes are being demolished, not where at least 150 homes are being constructed.  Very unfair on the scenario where say 140 homes being demolished and 149 being built. The proposal is just setting a structure/mechanism that will be abused.
  3. Unclear whether in section 3.3, “affordable” home also refers to secure tenancy homes that have been converted to temporary accommodation.  It should cover all homes that were at any stage secure tenancy homes to stop local authorities modifying the tenancy in order to get around the rules.
  4. The information should include the proposed planning documents/submission, as well as further appropriate supporting detail, and there must be a legally binding guarantee that the offer to residents on the table is the (non-variable) offer. Should the scheme change (eg any reduction in number of homes for council rent, any reduction in amenity, change in offer to residents to their detriment, etc), there  should be a further/second ballot held and if any funding was already drawn down by the local authority those monies are to be immediately paid back if the ballot result is a ‘No’.

Question 3: Do you agree with the proposed scope of resident ballots? Why/why not?

The consultation document is quite vague as to the scope, and would allow extreme abuse by local authorities who are looking for legislative loopholes to operate through.

There is no mention about the financial impact on residents. Information must be clearly provided to all residents about the possible financial impacts on their personal circumstances.  Tenants and homeowners should be fully informed about the financial risks of regeneration, and the range of financial impact should be detailed clearly in the offer documents. For example, the rebuilt homes on Cressingham Gardens will be more expensive for both tenures. Current secure tenants can expect to pay up to 25 per cent higher rents due to the manner in which ‘council rents’ of new homes are calculated based on market values. Current leaseholders will have to find between £100k and £300k more per property to retain a leasehold on the new property, as well as service charge increases. All tenures can expect higher council tax following revaluation, and to be tied into uncompetitive energy contracts for decades that they cannot switch out of.

The offer document must highlight the other negative impacts on residents.  For example, if leaseholders are forced into shared ownership, they must be made aware of the change in their rights:

  • That there is a serious risk that they may not be able to port their mortgage or get a new mortgage, and that the local authority in the case of Lambeth council has refused to be a “lender of last resort”;
  • That there are constraints on being able to re-mortgage their property (and hence potential financial insecurity) going forward under shared ownership;
  • That if they have to pay rent going forward, that they will be paying rent for the rest of their lives including into retirement;
  • That they are no longer homeowners, but rather tenants under law and can be evicted for ASB with no compensation for the ‘equity’ component;
  • etc

The GLA should develop a template / example version of the offer document with the necessary detail, otherwise local authorities will do the minimum and may deliberately  mislead residents (there is historical precedent from many of the local authorities the Mayor’s remit covers). For example, there is very little of the important detail ever included in documents sent out to residents by Lambeth council and often worded in a manner that would mislead residents.  The latest document to leaseholders from Lambeth council is absolutely shocking in the lack of detail, with residents having to wade through cabinet reports to see what is supposedly going to be their rights, but obviously not clear what will or will not be implemented.

Question 4: Do you agree with the proposed stage in an estate regeneration process at which ballots should happen? Why/why not?

It should definitely be done prior to any planning application. This would save local authorities a considerable amount of unnecessary expenditure

As to when before planning, there are two options, with our preferred option being clearly (2) as described below, as (1) does not offer sufficient information for informed resident decision nor provide sufficient guarantees and security to residents:

  1. We Object: Before development team/master plan

The advantage for the local authority is that they will not be incurring the costs of the development management team if there is no support.  However, it is very hard to ensure that they will actually deliver on what was promised at such an early stage.

For example, Lambeth council cabinet approved the demolition of the Westbury estate with the clear statement that they would be delivering 150 additional homes at council rent.  However, the planning application submitted was for only 3 additional homes at council rent. This over-promising and under-delivering is rampant in Lambeth: South Lambeth was supposed to deliver over 100 additional homes at council rent, but now only 21; Knight’s Walk 25 additional homes at council rent, but planning submitted for a mere 10 additional. It is also a problem in many other local authorities in London – as exemplified in the debacle of the Heygate estate, where several thousand social homes were demolished, to be replaced by fewer than 100.

Residents will need some very strong rights legislated to force the necessary transparency in order to check what is being proposed, compared to the promises made by the local authority.  Also, there is a question as to how residents can compel the GLA to act upon any agreements. For example, in the template GLA contract, the GLA has removed the Third Party Act, thus consciously or unconsciously disempowering residents.  The FOIA works too slowly to get data prior to decisions by local authorities, leaving only the judicial review route, which only looks at process rather than the substance of decisions.

2. We Agree: After master plan but just before planning submission

Ideally, it should be done after the master plan, but before planning application is submitted.  Only at this stage is there enough information for residents to make a truly informed decision and to know that there is a better chance that their local authority is not going to go back on all their supposed guarantees and promises (something that will still be possible through planning amendments).

Knowing that residents could vote “No” to the masterplan, should also help ensure that the development team properly listens to residents, and designs something that is suited to the community, rather than suited to the maximisation of income.

If residents do vote “No”, then it should be binding on the local authority for 5 years.  It is grossly unfair on residents to have to keep engaging with local authorities over the future of their homes, as it is a very time consuming process and has many negative consequences to family life.

Question 5: Do you have any other comments on the threshold, scope and timing of resident ballots?

The ballot should also apply to estate regenerations that the GLA have signed off funding contracts during the past few months.  There has been absolutely deplorable behaviour by the Mayor and the GLA with regard to his sub rosa signing of contracts, and there is zero trust now in the Mayor or the GLA.  Residents of Cressingham Gardens contacted the Mayor’s office in August 2017 requesting a meeting, but we were told that the Mayor was extremely busy and couldn’t meet with the democratically elected residents representatives over the subsequent months.  In a FOIA response in October 2017, the GLA confirmed that no contracts had been signed with Lambeth. This appears to have been a lie, given that a contract had been signed with Lambeth for Westbury, Knight’s Walk and South Lambeth estates in September 2017.  Residents announced a protest march requesting a ballot on November 2017 for 2 December 2017. A further FOIA response in February 2018 simply referred back to the previous FOIA response in October 2017. We are thus very saddened and angered to discover through another FOIA response that the GLA had secretly signed a contract with Lambeth on 1 December 17.

We will be happy to work with the Mayor to see how the contracts his office have signed over the past few months can be amended or terminated.

Question 6: Do you agree with the proposed eligibility criteria for resident ballots? Why/why not?

We do not agree with the proposed eligibility criteria as currently outlined:

1. Requiring homeowners to have lived for at least a full year before the ballot denies many residents for whom their property is their primary home a vote, even if they have recently moved in (estates typically have the most affordable housing in their areas and thus there are very few options to buy off an estate for such residents)

Furthermore, it ignores the following example situations:

    • Residents who have temporarily moved out to look after elderly parents or other relatives
    • Not all families can afford the step up in market value to buy a larger home when needed.  Consequently, there are families who have moved out of say the family home (1 bed flat) due to insufficient number of rooms and are renting a larger home.  They have kept the original home as the sole family home and propose to move back in once the children move on.
    • On estates, many of the homeowners are marginal homeowners and work within the freelance / contracting industries.  Thus, many of them are required to live elsewhere for periods of time due to work.

Consequently, we believe that all residents that have lived in their home at any point in time should get the vote, as this ought to screen out the ‘buy-to-let’ landlords, whilst not disadvantaging the residents who consider the home as their primary home even if not living in it for a full year prior to the ballot.

2. All private tenants having lived on the estate for more than a year ought to get a vote, not just those on the housing waiting list. Private tenancy is one of the most insecure tenancies and have the least rights and protection with regards to the regeneration.  If the GLA is going to insist that they they are on the housing waiting list, then there must be a requirement that the local authority is required to assess whether they would be eligible to be on the housing waiting list prior to the ballot. There are many reasons why a private tenant might be eligible to be on the housing waiting list, but is not on the list.

Question 7: Do you agree that eligibility criteria should be the same for all schemes? Why/why not?

Yes.   At this moment we cannot think of any circumstances when a certain type of scheme should get an exemption from the rules.

Question 8: Do you agree with the Mayor’s proposed requirements for implementing ballots? Why/why not?

We do not agree that an independent body should merely ‘supervise’ the ballot.  We believe that the independent body should be required to take a more active and accountable role:

  • Carry out the ballot
  • Ensure that the materials presented to residents are both truthful and not misleading
  • Make available appropriately qualified independent advisors (ie accountable to residents and not to the council) to answer any questions from residents about the implications of the proposals (e.g. legal, financial, language support etc)
  • Report any incidents that they become aware of where the local authority has  unfairly pressured or taken advantage of individual residents to vote in one way or the other (eg free from threats, whether direct or implicit).  Any ‘visits’ by council officers to vulnerable residents to be recorded as recommended recently by the Commons Works and Pensions Select Committee in connection with disability assessments.

In order to demolish an estate, there must be a majority of the residents voting ‘Yes’, not just a majority of the voting residents.   We have seen too often where Lambeth council has undertaken / attempted to undertake consultations during holiday periods when many residents are not around.  By requiring a majority of residents to vote ‘Yes’, not just a majority of those voting, it will remove the temptation to run ballots during the holiday periods when many residents are away.

Question 9: Do you have proposals for other potential Mayoral requirements for implementing ballots?

There should be a requirement for local authorities seeking funding, that they present a fully-scoped and costed – as audited by an external independent body – scheme that does not have future flexibility on volume, housing residency split and other important factors written into it. Too many developers, including local authorities, use such flexibility to the detriment of current residents, using vague terminology such as “like for like”.

The fully-scoped and costed proposals should be made public so that residents can review.  It is totally unacceptable for the GLA and local authorities to hide behind an excuse of ‘commercial sensitivity’.  For example, releasing approximate build costs in any viability statement will not impinge on any tendering process if there is a competitive market.  (Clyne vs ICO) and thus should not be subject to commercial sensitivity claims.

Question 10: Do you agree with the proposed exemption where the demolitions are required to deliver an infrastructure scheme? Why/why not?

No.  The majority of residents will vote in favour of demolition if what is being proposed and offered provides them with the security of an equivalent home (as would be considered equivalent by the residents, not as per planning jargon) and a protection of rights.  The problem with most demolition developments, they do nothing for the current residents and all too often are detrimental to them. We believe if local authorities truly worked with communities a ‘win-win’ solution can be found and the local authority will achieve a Yes vote.

Question 11: Do you agree with the proposed exemption where the demolitions are required to address safety issues? Why/why not?

No.  Local authorities will abuse the definition of ‘safety issues’, and create a situation that could be down to their own shoddy repairs and maintenance.  What will stop a local authority creating a situation where they for example refuse to do roof repairs leading to an unsafe circumstance in order to avoid a ballot.  This exemption would actually endanger current residents.

Again, as responded in question 10, if there is an honest discussion with the community, then the majority of the community will vote Yes.

Furthermore, if there is truly an urgent safety issue, residents would need to be evacuated straight away into temporary accommodation.   In any case, why shouldn’t there be a ballot of Grenfell residents as to what should be done going forward with their homes?

Question 12: Do you agree with the proposed exemption where a specialist or supported housing scheme is being decommissioned by a local authority? Why/why not?

No. Again, as responded in question 10, if there is an honest discussion with the community, then the majority of the community will vote Yes.

Question 13: Do you have proposals for other potential exemptions to the proposed funding condition?

No.  We can’t think of any possible exemption.

If all of the residents were not able to exercise their vote, then we believe in this circumstance the legal guardian/proxy should be allowed to vote on their behalf and in their best interests.

Question 14: Do you agree with the proposed transitional arrangements? Why/why not?

We totally object the proposed transitional arrangements.

In Sadiq Khan’s election manifesto in 2016, he wrote:

“Require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation, and that demolition is only permitted where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where all other options have been exhausted, with full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders.”

Subsequently, in the GLA’s Affordable Housing Funding Program document issued November 2016, it was clearly stated:

“Estate regeneration

94. The Mayor is developing a Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, which will set out good practice in relation to landlord aims and approaches, consultation and engagement, and offers to tenants and leaseholders that the Mayor expects to see in estate regeneration projects. Providers who bid for grant to deliver estate regeneration will need to contractually commit to these standards for their estate regeneration projects.”

Thus, it should not come to the surprise of any local authority that resident ballots would be required.  Indeed, any local authority that bid for the latest round of GLA funding (2016-21) were made aware upfront that they would be contractually required to meet the estate regeneration guidelines set down by the GLA.  The fact that they GLA is trying to avoid residents ballots now for the next 3 years worth of estate regeneration makes a complete mockery of this consultation and residents’ expectations. Only a ballot can provide appropriate evidence that there is majority resident support.

To be very clear, there should be no transitional requirement for any contracts signed under the 2016-21 GLA funding program.

The GLA has been signing contracts with local authorities throughout 2017 and 2018 during the various consultation periods in connection with estate regenerations that do not evidence resident support, such as Cressingham Gardens.  This shows the lack of due diligence on the part of the GLA and reinforces some of our concerns over whether the GLA has appropriate skills / experience to enforce this funding ballot, let alone the poor estate regeneration guideline document that has been issued.

Whether or not the GLA does decide to renege on its own policy and deny ballots, there must be full transparency over the contracts signed with the local authorities.  To date we have been denied access to the contract signed with Lambeth council and to any of the due diligence performed by the GLA. The fact that the GLA now wants to be able to make further exemptions on a case by case basis and provides no definitions as to what would be considered a ‘significant change’, provides further evidence that this is just a white-wash by the GLA.  It would appear the GLA has no intention of giving any residents a meaningful say or influence or input into the future of their homes or community.

To read the full consultation document issued by the GLA, click Estate Ballot Consultation document