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.
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.”
- 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: