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:

https://uk.gofundme.com/savecressingham

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:

https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/consultations/have-your-say-on-the-draft-brockwell-park-conservation-area-character-appraisal-and

To go direct to the current proposal:

https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/co-Draft-Brockwell-Park-CA-Character-Appraisal.pdf

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

Where to donate to Save Cressingham Gardens Fighting Fund:

https://uk.gofundme.com/savecressingham

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?

Yes

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

Cressingham Gardens demands after Mayor’s U-turn: “Pause regeneration plans and ballot us!”

Cressingham Gardens residents are calling for Lambeth council’s regeneration proposals to be paused following the Mayor of London’s U-turn on mandatory ballots.

Residents believe the council should halt the scheme while the Mayor’s consultation is ongoing.

cressingham-gardens-march-2017-28
Cressingham’s “ballot us” protest outside Lambeth Town Hall in December
(c) Mike Urban / Brixtonbuzz.com

The local authority is consolidating its plan to spend tens of millions of pounds of public money on the demolition scheme, despite these new uncertainties.

“Given the increasing political debate around privatisation of public housing, compounded by the mayor’s announcement, our Labour council should exercise some caution and put a hold on further spending on this £110 million scheme,” said Cressingham Gardens resident Andy Plant.

In his Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration published last week, Sadiq Khan said he was: “requiring resident support through a ballot for new plans involving demolition where City Hall funding is involved”.

Shortly after the news, Lambeth council leader Lib Peck published a statement that ruled out a “retrospective ballot” of Cressingham residents.

The carefully-worded statement, claimed that the council has already complied with the principles in the guide, despite a ballot having not been taken. It also claims that residents continue to be ‘at the heart of decision-making’, and that Cressingham Gardens is already “in receipt of GLA funding”.

Residents strongly dispute Peck’s claims and highlight that details of the policy – and which estates qualify for a ballot – will not be finalised until after the conclusion of the consultation on  April 3.

The Greens’ London Assembly member Sian Berry, who has been supporting council estate campaigns, is pushing for this to include all estate regeneration schemes that have not yet received planning permission, such as Cressingham Gardens.

Design work has not yet commenced with the masterplanning team Mott MacDonald, contrary to the claim by Peck that the scheme is at an advanced stage.

With the devil in the detail, Peck could yet be forced to ballot Cressingham residents.

In the meantime, Mott MacDonald are about to host a ‘Pancake Day Launch Event’ tomorrow (Feb 13), which will initiate discussions with residents on designs for the proposed replacement housing development.

Mr Plant said: “This is flippin’ nonsense”

The designers are hoping that “free pancakes and children’s activities” will sweeten the chat with residents about demolition of their homes.

Lambeth council has signed a £6.7m contract with the company, with an agreement to pay out in phases.

Off their own backs, Cressingham residents put together an alternative People’s Plan which details a sympathetic resident-led upgrade of the estate, as well as offering up to 37 extra homes for council rent, which entails no unnecessary demolition.  This is more than double the number of extra council rent homes that Lambeth promises by demolishing all 300 homes.

Speaking more generally about the council’s ambitions to demolish swathes of the borough’s council homes and rebuild under a private company Homes for Lambeth, resident Tom Keene said: “The council says it has to demolish estates to make way for more housing, and that it cannot ‘do nothing’ in the face of a housing crisis.

“This presents a false dichotomy – residents are not suggesting doing nothing.

“On the contrary, they are doing a great deal to try and help.

“Their option may not be as grand, but it is far less risky than exposing genuinely affordable public housing to the unpredictable market.

“This risk-taking and over-promising around what could be achieved through privatisation, and the turning of a blind eye to opposition, is exactly what made Haringey’s HDV proposal so unpopular.

“As Lambeth council begins to face the financial reality of their plucked-from-the air political target, we are already seeing the numbers of genuinely affordable homes dwindling.

“On Cressingham, the regeneration proposes little more than a dozen extra such homes, which is likely to ebb away as the project develops, and it promises to evict many more than it helps.”

In planning applications for three other Lambeth estates earmarked for the bulldozer – South Lambeth, Westbury and Knights Walk – just 34 extra such homes are proposed in total, compared to the previously stated 275, on which the cabinet decisions to demolish were based.

Mr Plant said of Peck’s statement: “This refusal to ballot us is fairly predictable, given Cllr Peck and her Labour cabinet’s consistent track-record of side-lining residents’ wishes.

“Our own survey showed that 86 percent of residents wanted refurbishment not demolition, with a 72 percent response-rate, so it is understandable that the leader of the council doesn’t want this formalised in an official vote.

“However, the mayor’s guide gives her an opportunity to right her wrongs and finally begin to put the community at the heart of this process.”

Mr Plant continued: “It would be morally reprehensible to continue whilst the consultation on ballots is ongoing.

“Only mandatory ballots will ensure regenerations that deliver benefits to the community.”

Notes

  • Residents have been requesting independently-run ballots since demolition of the estate’s 306 homes was first mooted five years ago.
  • Since then, there have been some changes to the estate’s demographic, with Lambeth replacing outgoing secure tenants with those on temporary accommodation licenses. Residents are calling for those tenants to be included in any ballot.
  • The design and management contract for Cressingham Gardens was only signed in November 2017, and is only at a preliminary ‘resident engagement’ stage.
  • Cressingham People’s Plan, which proposes optional resident management of estate repairs and maintenance, as well as up to 37 extra homes for council rent, has been fully costed at £7m, compared to Lambeth’s £110m+ scheme. The People’s Plan also proposes full green and sustainable refurbishment of homes.
  • Cabinet members made their decision with the expectation that Lambeth’s scheme could deliver around 27 extra council homes, however recent documents reveal that this has dwindled to 16, with mounting financial pressures likely to force that figure down further.
  • In November 2015, an earlier demolition decision was quashed at the high court. Cressingham residents won a judicial review which found that Lambeth council’s earlier decision to demolish the estate had been unlawful, after the council removed refurbishment options from the consultation before it had concluded and on a spurious basis. Officers ran the consultation again, but cabinet made the same decision to demolish. While residents lost a further judicial review challenging the second decision in December 2016, they still contend that the scheme is financially unviable. One of the key grounds of the second challenge was that the council opted for a financially unviable option, namely demolition, despite carrying out the consultation on the basis that the chosen option must be viable. During court proceedings, Lambeth did not deny that the Homes for Lambeth scheme would be kept out of the red by a £7m grant / loan from the council. Lambeth admitted that it had not formally accounted for paying back the loan in its viability calculations, but simply asserted in court that there would be plenty of money available to service the loan.
  • Lambeth Council’s proposal removes secure tenancies and replaces them with assured tenancies; homeowners (both leasehold and freeholders) will be forced into shared ownership (effectively an assured tenancy) unless they can afford an extra £200k extra to buy one of the new flats; will bulldoze the entire estate, displacing the existing community, of which many residents have lived in for decades; and make getting on the buses even more of a challenge for local commuters. There have been numerous accounts from residents on other regenerated estates suggesting that hasty construction and corner-cutting could produce poor-quality buildings:

https://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/peckham-residents-fear-eviction-blocks-demolished-5-years-built/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/21/the-real-cost-of-regeneration-social-housing-private-developers-pfi

https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/orchard-village-what-went-wrong-with-prps-flagship-housing-scheme/10017416.article

Petition: Stop Mott MacDonald profiting from community destruction

Resident have started a new petition asking the international employee-owned firm Mott MacDonald to remove themselves from Lambeth council’s project proposing to demolish Cressingham Gardens.

To sign the petition on Change.org, click here

And share the link: http://bit.ly/MottMacDonaldCressinghamPetition

Petition:

We are asking Mott MacDonald, an employee-owned company, to remove themselves from the Cressingham Gardens regeneration project led by Lambeth council.   Mott MacDonald takes pride in their ethics and we believe that Lambeth’s proposed regeneration of Cressingham Gardens goes against their ethics policy – both in spirit and letter.
As written in Mott MacDonald’s ethics policy:
“We [Mott MacDonald] seek to be good corporate citizens, to provide local employment and to contribute to the well-being of communities where we work.”
This project will not contribute to the well-being of the Cressingham Gardens community.  Surveys show that the clear majority of residents do NOT want their community and homes demolished.  It is a very supportive community that has a very high proportion of households that have a vulnerable family member (at least 40%) and is extremely diverse (65% BME).  The demolition of the community will destroy the support networks and many families will be forced to leave the area as they will simply not be able to afford the new housing.   It will also have devastating impacts on residents.  Here is one such example (“Mary’s story”):

http://bit.ly/MaryCressingham
To come back, residents are being expected to give up legal rights and to pay more (e.g. tenants have to give up their secure tenancy and accept an assured tenancy with higher rents; existing homeowners are expected to find approx £200k extra cash to remain homeowners otherwise they have to become tenants in shared ownership or rental arrangements). Even the council’s own Equalities Impact Assessment states that the majority of the new homes will only be affordable to those on higher incomes or with capital assets.  The median household income in the area is a mere £29k pa before tax, but the council wants to charge market rent of £39k pa for a 4 bed apartment.
Residents have taken the council to the High Court twice to hold it to account for financial manipulations. The hearings revealed facts that should be of grave concern to any organisation wishing to partner with the council to redevelop the estate.
Cressingham Gardens is worth saving, not demolishing.  Historic England strongly suggested giving Cressingham Gardens conservation area status for its local architectural importance, but Lambeth council have refused to even consider the recommendation.  Cressingham Gardens is also supported by Save Britain’s Heritage.

Cressingham’s recommendations to the Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, published his purported “Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration” for consultation.   The residents feel that the document fell far short from its lofty title.  The following was submitted today to the Mayor of London:

Recommendations to the Mayor of London

  1. No discrimination against estates Guidelines to be applied to all residential regeneration and not just estate regeneration.  Estates should not be singled out and discriminated against for regeneration compared to other residential areas.
  2. No increase in local housing costs Regeneration requiring enforced removal of residents from their homes to make way for redevelopment must not result in higher local housing costs.
  3. Full disclosure & transparency There must be full disclosure and transparency during the process in a timely manner.  “Commercial sensitivity” not to be used as an excuse not to disclose.
  4. Evidence & fact based All claims made by local authorities/developers to be supported by evidence and facts that are to be made available for scrutiny by residents.
  5. Viability to include full impact on residents Viability/options assessments must include the full impact on residents.  That is, viability/options assessments should not just consider the viability from a local authority/developer perspective, but also the full costs and benefits to the residents impacted
  6. Conclusive & binding ballot There must be a conclusive and binding ballot of residents held prior to the regeneration being approved and/or planning permission being sought, whichever is the earliest date. The ballot and materials to be written and carried out by an independent organisation.  The materials accompanying the ballot must present all the relevant facts including funding, tenure rights, RTB etc.  Any subsequent approval to be deemed revoked if it later transpires that any significant element has changed or been withdrawn.
  7. No worse off Existing residents should not be worse off in any manner – financially, quality of housing, access to local services, career/education impacts etc
  8. Honest timetables Realistic and honest timetables must be published.  Changes to the timetable must be the exception and where it occurs must be robustly argued why the change is necessary.
  9. Enforcement mechansisms There must be a mechanism to enforce the guidelines and provide an effective and cost-free route for residents to complain and seek redress if there is a breach of the guidelines.  An independent body should be authorised to determine if all options have been exhausted.
  10. Remove councils’ conflicts of interests If the local authority is either the landlord or a partner in the regeneration beyond its general role as a local authority, then a different organisation should be required to consider any planning application in order to avoid all conflicts of interest.
  11. People’s Plans to be supported If residents would like to create their own alternative ‘People’s Plan,’ financial support  to be provided to the same level as budgeted by the landlord/developer to develop their proposal.  The financial support is to allow residents to engage their own technical experts.
  12. Retain community The landlord must aim to retain at least 80% of the community, otherwise a punitive fine is payable.  It is insufficient to say that residents have ‘opportunities’ to stay, when in fact what is being offered is so unattractive very little of the community is retained.
  13. No loss of legal rights Returning residents must as a minimum have no loss of legal rights, irrespective of their legal tenure
  14. Private rental residents to be protected If a private rental household has lived for more than 2 years on an estate and their homes is to be demolished, the council must be required at a minimum to ensure adequate rehousing at same rental level in the same area.  If the household is eligible for social housing, then an appropriate social home to be provided under any regeneration program with full legal rights for the tenure.
  15. Temporary accommodation households to be converted to secure tenancies If a household is living for more than 1 year in a home converted to temporary accommodation due to a proposed demolition/regeneration program, the tenancy to be automatically converted to a secure council tenancy.

[Signed by 75 residents]

 

Residents vow to fight on after high court decision

Residents of Cressingham Gardens estate have vowed to ‘fight on’ to save their homes, despite losing a high court battle to overturn Lambeth council’s vote.

Mr Justice David Holgate announced today (Wed) that he would not quash the decision to demolish the celebrated estate near Brixton, south London, following a judicial review last month.

The result is a disappointment for residents, particularly as they won a similar fight this time last year, in which a judge found Lambeth had unlawfully withdrawn refurbishment options.

The council re-ran the consultation with repairs back on the table, but in March this year elected to go with ‘Option 5’ and flatten all 306 homes, despite overwhelming resident opposition.

The available evidence shows that after stripping people of their homes, Lambeth will force up living costs by hiking council rents and upping the cost of purchasing a leasehold property by between £200k and £300k per home.

The residents’ People’s Plan, a community-led alternative to demolition, would protect current affordable living costs, increase the number of council homes, and do so at a fraction of the cost of Lambeth’s proposal.

This year’s judicial review coincides with London mayor Sadiq Khan’s launch of a consultation on his ‘Homes for Londoners: Draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration’ which suggests demolition only as a last resort.

The claimant, Cressingham Gardens resident Andy Plant, said, ‘This is obviously not the Christmas present we’d hoped for.

‘Of course we had everything crossed for a brilliant win like last year. But it’s not all bad news, as we still have everything to fight for, and will fight on to save our homes and community.

‘We are hoping to appeal the judgment.

‘This case has forced the council to admit some very alarming facts, which we will be able to add to our armoury for other future challenges.

‘The facts we’ve exposed should serve as a call to action for Lambeth residents, and particularly people living on estates in this borough, who are worried about what its politicians are up to in their name.

‘Labour councils across London are citing the housing crisis as a reason to bulldoze council estates, but there is strong evidence that this land-grabbing practice has actually made the problem worse, driving up prices and even making people homeless.

‘Mayor Khan – who depended on his background of growing up on a council estate to bolster his mayoral campaign – should be requiring strict and independent cost-benefit analysis to be carried out before any estate demolitions are given the go-ahead.

‘He should not be watering down his pledges out of fear of standing up to his friends in powerful Labour-dominated councils.’

Those closely watching the mayor’s consultation, believe that an election pledge to make resident support key to any demolition, has been diluted.

Mr Plant also highlighted how Lambeth’s barrister James Goudie QC had sought to criticise residents by calling them ‘insatiable’.

‘This is actually an admirable quality in terms of calling this local authority to account,’ added Mr Plant.

And, far from upholding ‘Option 5’ as the fantastic solution trumpeted by cabinet member for housing Cllr Matthew Bennett and his colleagues, Mr Goudie ended up demoting Lambeth’s scheme, describing it as the ‘least of the worst of evils’.

During the case, Lambeth admitted facts behind many of the grounds of challenge, including that it failed to account for a £7.5m public subsidy to the redevelopment.

Earlier, officers had insisted the viability calculations had been done properly, before finally confessing, just weeks before the hearing, that development consultants Airey Miller had left out the multi-million pound expense from the financial model.

The revelation was buried in paragraph 21 of a witness statement from Lambeth’s finance director Christina Thompson.

During the November hearing, the judge described the excerpt, which was supposed to clarify the situation, as both ‘incomprehensible’, and part of a ‘delphic [deliberately obscure or ambiguous] witness statement’.

Lawyers for Mr Plant claimed that as a result of the omission, cabinet members were misled about the viability of the £110m scheme when they agreed to go ahead.

A correct calculation would have led to the full demolition option failing Lambeth’s own ‘must achieve criteria’, that had been set out during the consultation with residents, it was claimed.

While Lambeth admitted not including the £7.5m expense, it denied that this had an effect on the viability because, it claimed, the money would be paid back in due course.

The need to tackle the borough’s council housing waiting list has been repeatedly cited by Lambeth as a key motive for demolishing Cressingham Gardens, along with more a general attempt to resolve the ‘housing crisis’.

The community’s regeneration proposal, estimated to cost around £10.9m, would assist by creating up to 37 extra homes at council rent – many more than than the council’s preferred option, which at best promises 27 more such homes.

The council claims its redevelopment, (which would be carried out by Homes for Lambeth, a private company/special purpose vehicle (SPV) being set up by the council to regenerate at least six estates across the borough), would attract investment from private sources.

During the consultation with residents, Lambeth claimed that by contrast, any refurbishment options would be off limits because of the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap.

This argument was strongly contested during the hearing, during which it was revealed how the residents and cabinet members had been supplied with out-of-date financial information, that concealed £48 million of extra borrowing capacity.

David Wolfe, QC, representing Mr Plant, described this as a ‘very significant failure’ of the consultation.

Residents formulated their consultation responses, including the People’s Plan, based on the council’s claim that there was very little debt headroom.

Partly as a result of the misinformation, cabinet members were led to believe that funding the People’s Plan was an impossible prospect, when in fact there was a pot of up to £52 million to draw from, it was claimed.

Following the close of the consultation and therefore, Lambeth moved the goalposts and cited a completely different barrier to funding – it claimed it would not be able to pay off the loan.

During the hearing, the council argued that cabinet members were aware of the new reason when they decided to demolish, a claim which Ms Thompson made in her witness statement.

Data eventually released by the council, suggests that a major factor contributing to the dire condition of the future housing finances, is the regeneration programme itself.

Cressingham resident Gerlinde Gniewosz, a co-author of the People’s Plan along with Mr Plant and others, said in a written court statement that it was now possible ‘to start to understand how the defendant is accounting for the impact of Option 5 [full redevelopment] on the HRA’.

Analysis reveals how the wider regeneration programme promises to strip council coffers of millions of pounds in rental income from council tenanted homes, ‘as the rebuilt homes would no longer belong to the HRA, but rather …Homes for Lambeth’ (the SPV).

Adding to the pressure, the council is still paying off debt generated by the historic build costs of many of its estates, and the rents would no longer be readily available to pay them off.

In addition, according to case papers, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has warned that should the council seek to avoid the debt limit, it would be in breach of government policy – that being the policy on the ‘general power of competence’, under the Localism Act 2011.

Around the time of the judicial review, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee also warned that ‘council taxpayers will end up footing the bill and other services will be under threat’ if local authorities’ risky commercial ventures – reportedly a growing trend – go wrong.

The claimant’s lawyers also argued that Lambeth had breached Mr Plant’s human rights when councillors decided to remove his right to buy, in particular when they failed to properly consider a ‘less intrusive measure’.

Mr Plant, who has lived in Cressingham Gardens for 20 years and hopes to buy his council home in the future, was told he would lose the right along with his secure tenancy.

The court heard how a regeneration consultancy called Local Dialogue, which ran the consultation with the council, made a ‘legally wrong’ claim in a document called ‘Key Guarantees for Tenants’, which stated, ‘The Council proposes to match your current tenancies as closely as possible in order to provide security of tenure.

‘You should note that the right to buy is not available under assured tenancies.’

Mr Wolfe argued, ‘It was correct that the lifetime assured tenancy would not carry with it the statutory right to buy.

‘But that was not the end of the matter, because it would have been (and would be now) entirely open to the council to create an equivalent contractual option to buy (even if, contrary to what Mr Plant would really like, it presses on with regeneration) with the assured tenancy, or as a protected right under a stock transfer to a housing association.

‘But there was no mention of that in the report to the cabinet.’

The council’s approach is in direct conflict with government policy, which was confirmed by the DCLG in a letter to a Cressingham resident.

The DCLG stated, ‘It is important that new council tenants should have access to the Right to Buy and that new homes should not be built by councils which are excluded from the Right to Buy… The Government believes that local authorities should support people to achieve their aspiration for home ownership through the Right to Buy.’

The government has also pledged to extend the scheme to housing associations (which Homes for Lambeth is expected to be), and is currently trialling a system in which replacement homes would be built, before a planned national roll-out.

Meanwhile, in Sadiq Khan’s own borough, Tory-led Wandsworth, residents of one of London’s largest housing regeneration schemes (Winstanley Estate & York Road) were balloted and will retain their council tenancies and associated rights.

Lambeth claimed that the right was not being lost, because tenants can opt to move to a council home elsewhere in the borough, should they wish to retain their secure tenancies.

‘At most, there’s an interference with the right,’ said Mr Goudie, adding, ‘but it’s a limited interference and not an outright removal.’

Mr Goudie claimed that under the present circumstances, ‘interference is in the public interest’, particularly as there is only one tenant’s account weighing against what the council insists is the greater ‘public good’.

Lambeth proposes to spend £110 million on the redevelopment project, to build an extra 148 flats.

The local authority has said that Homes for Lambeth would aim to let 27 of the additional properties at council rent levels, with most of the additional homes to be let or sold at market prices.

Though the judge dismissed Mr Plant’s claim on this point, he agreed Lambeth was obliged to consult on the contractual right to buy, which Lambeth has not yet done.

A £400k ‘weather-tight repairs’ project, which includes the replacement of a number of the estate’s leaking roofs, has been underway on the estate since the summer.

The scope of the investment was reduced from £1.4m following an outcry, after some leaseholders were sent estimated bills of up to £14k, within days of being told their homes would be pulled down.

The DCLG recently put a hold on Southwark council’s regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate, after refusing to confirm a number of Compulsory Purchase Orders which had been issued to leaseholders.

Secretary of state Sajid Javid said Southwark had not done enough to negotiate buy-out costs with the residents to allow them to remain in their community.

Lambeth denied four grounds, that: The council erroneously included £7.5m income which would have otherwise for each of the options resulted in its own preferred demolition option failing its own ‘must achieve criteria’; Misled its own cabinet members as to ‘The People’s Plan’ and/or the members failed conscientiously to take into account key aspects of this consultation response; Failed to provide up-to-date data relating to the HRA finances to either the consultees or the Cabinet members, such that they were (respectively) not properly able to comment on or take into account the data; and breached Mr Plant’s right to property under Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, combined with his right to respect for a home, by removing his existing ‘Right to Buy’, contrary to current government policy.

The judge dismissed Mr Plant’s claim on all grounds and ordered the claimant to pay the council’s costs. Mr Plant has 21 days to lodge an appeal.

Full ruling can be read here

Judicial Review 2, Part three

Lambeth council breached a tenant’s human rights when it decided to demolish his home and remove his right to buy, the high court heard.

Claimant Andy Plant, who has lived in Cressingham Gardens for 20 years and hopes to buy his council home in the future, was told he would lose his right to buy along with his secure tenancy.

The local authority made a ‘legally wrong’ statement that if secure tenants wanted to live in the replacement estate, it would not be possible to include this option under the new assured tenancy.

At the same time, the council misinformed secure tenants that the new agreements would be ‘matched as closely as possible’ to the current statutory contract, which carries a number of protected rights, it is said.

In considering the right to buy in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), David Wolfe QC, representing Mr Plant, argued its loss constituted a breach of the claimant’s right to property under Article 1, Protocol 1 of the ECHR.

A decision having that effect, needs to satisfy the ‘requirements of proportionality’, said Mr Wolfe, referring to caselaw (Bank Mellat v HM Treasury) which requires consideration of a number of matters.

These are:

  • Whether the objective of the measure is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a protected right
  • Whether the measure is rationally connected to the objective
  • Whether a less intrusive measure could have been used without unacceptably compromising the achievement of the objective
  • Whether the impact of the rights infringement is disproportionate to the likely benefit of the [disputed] measure

Mr Wolfe told the court that the consultation and decision-making did not consider the issue as per the legal requirements.

The barrister said consultation documents were ‘legally wrong’, in that they claimed that the right could not be retained under an assured tenancy, when a contractual option to buy could be made available, but this was not even considered.

The court heard how a regeneration consultancy called Local Dialogue, which ran the consultation with the council, stated in a document called ‘Key Guarantees for Tenants’, ‘The Council proposes to match your current tenancies as closely as possible in order to provide security of tenure.

‘You should note that the right to buy is not available under assured tenancies.’

In his written legal argument, Mr Wolfe said, ‘It was correct that the lifetime assured tenancy would not carry with it the statutory right to buy.

‘But that was not the end of the matter, because it would have been (and would be now) entirely open to the council to create an equivalent contractual option to buy (even if, contrary to what Mr Plant would really like, it presses on with regeneration) with the assured tenancy, or as a protected right under a stock transfer to a housing association.

‘But there was no mention of that in the report to the cabinet.’

The barrister said that the point is also given weight by government policy, which was confirmed by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in a letter to a Cressingham resident.

The DCLG stated, ‘It is important that new council tenants should have access to the Right to Buy and that new homes should not be built by councils which are excluded from the Right to Buy… The Government believes that local authorities should support people to achieve their aspiration for home ownership through the Right to Buy.’

The Government has also pledged to extend the scheme to housing associations, and is currently trialling a system in which replacement homes would be built, before a planned national roll-out.

James Goudie, QC, defending Lambeth, claimed that the right was not being lost, because tenants can opt to move to a council home elsewhere in the borough if they wish to retain their secure tenancies.

‘At most, there’s an interference with the right,’ said the barrister, adding, ‘but it’s a limited interference and not an outright removal of the right.’

He added that under the present circumstances, ‘interference is in the public interest’, particularly as there is only one tenant’s account weighing against what the council claims to be the greater ‘public good’.

The council proposes to spend £110 million on the redevelopment project, which involves transferring the existing homes to a private company to be called ‘Homes for Lambeth’, demolishing the existing 306 homes and building an extra 148 flats.

The council has said that Homes for Lambeth would aim to let 27 of the additional properties at council rent levels, with most of the additional homes to be let or sold at market prices.

The resident-led alternative ‘People’s Plan’ would require £10.9 million of investment, and add up to 37 extra homes at council rent levels.

Mr Goudie argued that the matter should be settled on a case-by-case basis via county court possession proceedings, adding, ‘I would not be able to say there wasn’t an issue with another resident, just because Mr Plant had not succeeded.’

The barrister went on to claim that the matter was ‘covered in the consultation’, but admitted, ‘not thoroughly’ adding that Local Dialogue’s account of assured tenancies on this issue, was ‘a little terse’.

Nonetheless, he claimed, ‘there’s nothing amiss.’

Referring to Mr Goudie’s written legal argument, Mr Justice David Holgate said, ‘You’re saying it doesn’t constitute a deprivation of a possession’, because what the council is doing is underwritten as ‘part of the package agreed between the parties’, meaning the terms and conditions of the secure tenancy agreement.

The court heard the statute lists demolition as a justification for repossession and by terminating the secure tenancy, the ‘council was exercising a right’ – meaning that when Mr Plant signed the contract, he submitted to this potential outcome.

Further summarising the barrister’s point, the judge said that the ‘right to buy going is a statutory consequence’ of demolition.

Mr Goudie continued, ‘And, the claimant can’t argue that while it’s compliant with UK law, ‘My A1 P1 right is triggered.’

‘It goes, because the foundation has departed,’ he added.

‘To that extent, it’s a precarious right.

‘It’s secure, subject to the grounds of possession.’

He went on to emphasise that ‘even if’ the convention right is triggered by the current circumstances, ‘any deprivation would be proportionate to the public interest’.

Moving on to Mr Wolfe’s point that the council ‘failed to consider less intrusive options’, Mr Goudie said, ‘Our submission is, the test isn’t whether a less intrusive option has been considered, but whether the intrusion is in the public interest.

‘In our submission, [consideration of a less intrusive option is] not a relevant test in the present context.’

The judge asked, ‘How do you get to that?’

‘My lord,’ replied Mr Goudie, ‘That here, the possibility of a less intrusive measure doesn’t arise, on the facts.’

‘You seem to be saying, it’s not part of the law we’re supposed to apply?,’ remarked the judge.

Mr Goudie said he accepted that a less intrusive measure was a ‘consideration’, but insisted, ‘It’s relevant, but not decisive.’

Regarding government policy on the right to buy, the judge said, ‘The argument made against you is, the authority didn’t take it into account.’

Mr Goudie said, ‘If some agreement was being set up to circumvent right to buy, then that could be unlawful, not less for being for an improper purpose.

‘But right to buy loss – as an incidental consequence of the loss of the secure tenancy – doesn’t come anywhere near that.

‘It’s a means of accessing private funds for public good, and it’s collateral damage, in the sense it’s an incidental outcome that the right to buy would be lost as a consequence.’

In reply, Mr Wolfe argued that the item of ‘property’ in question, was not ‘simply the right to buy’, with the tenancy being ‘prescient to that’, as Mr Goudie had set out.

Instead, the ‘tenancy is a piece of property, and the right to buy is part of that’, adding that ‘what’s in play here, is a secure tenancy’.

Mr Wolfe added that the question is ‘appropriately dealt with’ in the present judicial review proceedings, rather than as advocated by the defence, in the county court.

This is because, a ‘specific question’ is being posed about the way the council dealt with the rights interference, and triggered by the demolition option.

The judge said, ‘What do you say to the point that it’s not just offering an assured tenancy, it’s offering a secure tenancy elsewhere?’

‘We say, it’s not appropriate to shoot that down the track to the county court,’ replied Mr Wolfe. ‘It’s a scheme question.’

He added that Mr Goudie ‘makes much of the public interest of the redevelopment’, but Mr Wolfe argued that there needed to be analysis of the ‘counter-balancing public interest’ of the ‘the less intrusive option’.

‘Why not adopt the less intrusive option?’ he said.

‘Nothing has been said about why that would be a bad idea, not least because the council doesn’t consider it.’

The judge said, ‘I suppose they’d say it’s the impact on the HRA [Housing Revenue Account], but then, that comes back to the government policy.’

Earlier, Mr Goudie made separate submissions on the point of ‘delay’, in which he claimed that the case should be thrown out because it was allegedly not brought promptly.

With the support of a local councillor Scott Ainslie, residents ‘called in’ the March decision for review by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC), and waited until after the committee decision on May 10, before making the high court claim.

This was because it was open to the OSC to refer the decision back to cabinet (which it did not do), and the court was very likely to have refused permission for the judicial review if this alternative remedy had not first been pursued.

Judicial review claimants have three months from a decision to launch a challenge, which was complied with, but there is a further requirement to lodge them ‘promptly’.

Mr Goudie suggested the claim should have been put in earlier and as a result of the delay, progress on the regeneration was put back by several weeks.

Mr Wolfe said the court had been provided with ‘no evidence at all’ about what difference it made, and the court heard that various circumstances, such as the dearth of judges hearing cases over the summer, meant that in the end there was only three weeks lost.

If time was so much of the essence, it would have been open to Lambeth to expedite the scrutiny hearing by bringing the date forward, added Mr Wolfe.

Earlier, the judge also flagged a possible argument, that the cabinet decision was ‘cured’ by the eventual OSC decision not to refer back, in that it potentially indicated what cabinet would decide if it were now forced by the court to reconsider.

Mr Wolfe said, ‘The point is, the OSC looked at it on the same basis.’

The judge suggested, ‘If they repeat the same mistakes, they’re not curing it.’

He added, ‘If we were being told the council dealt with all the points afresh [via the OSC], that would have been a completely different case.’

Mr Wolfe said, ‘The appropriate result is a proper, fair consultation and you should quash the decision.’

‘They say the decision would be the same,’ said the judge.

Mr Wolfe said that if courts took as read defendants’ claims that their decisions would be the same, ‘no consultation challenge would ever proceed’.

The judge said he was reserving judgement and added, ‘I’m aware of the urgency of the matter and the need to avoid continuing uncertainty.

‘I’ll deal with it as quickly as I can.

‘There’ll be a hand down in the usual way.’

In summary, Lambeth denies four grounds, that: The council erroneously included £7.5m income which would have otherwise for each of the options resulted in its own preferred demolition option failing its own ‘must achieve criteria’; Misled its own cabinet members as to ‘The People’s Plan’ and/or the members failed conscientiously to take into account key aspects of this consultation response; Failed to provide up-to-date data relating to the HRA finances to either the consultees or the Cabinet members, such that they were (respectively) not properly able to comment on or take into account the data; and Breached Mr Plant’s right to property under Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, combined with his right to respect for a home, by removing his existing ‘Right to Buy’, contrary to current government policy.

The case was heard between November 15 and 17 and the judge has reserved judgement, which is expected to be handed down within weeks.