Press Release: Demolition-threatened Estate Residents Urge Council to Reconsider Refurbishment and avoid ‘Regeneration Mess’

Residents of Cressingham Gardens Estate last night challenged Lambeth Council to halt disastrous demolition proposals and consider their own scheme which would actually benefit the borough.

The ‘Residents’ Vision‘ would enable funding of comprehensive refurbishment of all 300 existing homes and potentially boost levels of genuinely affordable housing on the estate – all profitably.

Compared to the council’s proposals, if given the go-ahead, the vision would be far more cost-effective for taxpayers and avoid needless displacement of the existing community.

The community has been awarded £20k by the Government’s Urban Community Energy Fund to put together a business case that could open up millions of pounds in energy efficiency funding for the alternative scheme.

The news follows a grueling two-and-a-half year consultation on five ‘options for regeneration’ that until this month offered refurbishment and varying degrees of infill.

Residents were recently involved in a ‘green retrofit working group’ led by council-hired architect Roland Karthaus, looking at innovative ways of refurbishing and also funding streams.

However in December the council pulled the plug on several of the working groups without explanation, before they could make formal recommendations, resulting in working group members deciding to organise their own meetings on the way forward.

The demolition news, which came in a letter from Cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Matthew Bennett, was met with accusations from residents and wider supporters that the consultation has been a ‘sham from the start’ and that the council ‘was never seriously considering refurbishment’.

Gerlinde Gniewosz, co-chair of the Tenants and Residents Association and who sits on the Regeneration Project Team, said: ‘The council is misleading Lambeth residents when it states the regeneration is motivated by the need to build 1,000 extra council homes.

‘This is just political, a veneer to cover up financial mismanagement in its decent homes major works program – Lambeth has demonstrated it has no interest in truly helping residents. The officers and councillors have ignored what residents are repeatedly saying about the really negative effects of what they are proposing.’

Ms Gniewosz added that the council’s original stated motivation in 2012 at the start of the regeneration, remains closer to the truth.

She said: ‘It’s to plug a £50m funding gap by bringing in private money.

The irony is that council incompetence means the proposed scheme will actually put them heavily into the red and produce a net loss of genuinely affordable homes – compared to resident-led refurbishment which would be financially viable and sustainable, and provide residents with much-valued security.

‘If the council allows itself to continue down this road it is going to end up in a total mess – just like many other regeneration schemes across London which end up as large scale evictions.’

Analysis shows that the full demolition option would leave the council in £63m debt – with each proposed extra ‘council home’ costing the local authority a net £415k each.

The same analysis reveals that full demolition will end in a net loss of affordable housing that the local community can genuinely afford.

Lambeth’s numbers involve a sleight of hand which attempts to conceal the demolition, but not replacement of family sized homes (3-4 bedrooms). There is a shortage of such housing in Lambeth. Where will these families go?

With the help of their own quantity surveyor, who exposed the council’s vastly inflated costings, residents brought the local authority’s refurbishment estimate down from nearly £16m to £8m.

Lambeth continues to claim that this is ‘still three times more than we can afford’, but their position fails to acknowledge the funding options presented by residents.

Ms Gniewosz urged Cabinet members to reject last night’s flawed report to Cabinet proposing the demolition, and to adopt the resident-led options for consideration.

She said: ‘We are requesting that the Cabinet members vote to reject this report and to instruct the officers to truly work with the community in the spirit of the co-operative council and to truly co-design a solution that is win-win for both the community and the council.’

Residents announced the proposals to a Cabinet meeting of Lambeth’s top councillors last night as they struck out the existing Options 1-3 and rubber-stamped a decision to demolish all or part of the estate (Options 4 & 5) – against the wishes of the people living there.

Residents made impassioned pleas for the council to rethink and add Options 6, 7 and 8, and are hopeful the council will see sense between now and when they make a final decision in May.

Residents’ Vision – putting Options 6, 7 and 8 on the table to benefit residents

  • £20k awarded from UCEF to carry out community consultation and develop detailed plan for green retrofit

  • Under the three options, all 300 existing homes would be retained and refurbished in line with Passivhaus energy standards, eliminating damp and mould

  • Passivhaus standards cut fuel bills by up to 90%, eliminating fuel poverty, whilst the council’s options would see rent rises for council tenants, increased council tax and increased water rates

  • All residents remain living on the estate – unlike the council’s demolition scheme which would likely involve large-scale displacement and add to the burden of other public services such as mental health, GP and social services

  • Option 6 to carry out the external repairs through a Passivhaus green retrofit. Due to the incentives and funding this sort of project unlocks, the net costs are low compared with options 1-5

  • A potential part of Option 6 is to bring the estate under community control, following other London examples such as Walteron and Elgin Community Homes in West London, which would reduce debt on the council’s balance sheet.

  • Option 7 builds on option 6, by building up to 23 extra genuinely affordable bedrooms or 11 homes, costing less than £100k per home, compared to the council’s projected £415k

  • Option 8 adds community projects to both of these that are of social and wellbeing benefit to the residents.

Ends

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