June 2021 Bulletin

Douglas Bader Park estate - plans rejected

Barnet’s planning committee has gone against officer recommendations and unexpectedly rejected housing association Home Group’s application to demolish the Douglas Bader Park estate. The application was for demolition of the exiting 271 social rented homes and replacement with 272 (36%) London Affordable Rent homes and 481 private/market homes.

Residents who responded to the application echoed concerns often expressed by many who are involved in the Estate Watch residents’ network. These included:

  • not being offered a ‘like for like’ property;
  • the needs and concerns of older people who have resided in their homes for 45 years, particularly those with medical problems, ignored;
  • loss of long-term friends and neighbours;
  • being scared for their futures and the regeneration bringing tears to their eyes;
  • that residents who object to the regeneration failed respond to the application, as they felt ‘what is the point and who cares about us’;
  • landlord displacement of residents prior to the planning application;
  • concerns that the ballot held in 2019 was not fair.

The minutes of the council meeting don’t give reasons for the application being refused – they simply say that these will be agreed formally at the next meeting.

The refusals could perhaps include:

  • the failure to show (through a viability study) that the maximum level of affordable homes is being provided, when the Mayor of London requires 60% in estate regeneration schemes where there is a ‘strategic partner’ (like Home Group) is involved;
  • the possibility that evidence has not been provided to show demolition is being pursued as a last resort;
  • proposals to fell 161 trees when 51 are covered by tree preservation orders;
  • comments made by residents.

You can read more about the Douglas Bader Park estate on our web page here or view the planning application and supporting documents here (ref: 20/6277/FUL)

Cundy Street estate - Why isn’t Grosvenor seeking Mayoral funding?

Westminster Council has approved an application for the demolition of 111 private and 44 social rented homes on the Cundy Street estate made by the Duke of Westminster’s property firm Grosvenor.

Grosvenor plans to replace the estate with 139 homes for luxury senior living accommodation plus 93 ‘affordable’ of which 44 social rent and 49 intermediate rent.

Westminster did publish Grosvenor’s viability assessment for the scheme, which said it couldn’t afford to provide any more affordable housing because the scheme was only estimated to produce £71m of the £121m profit it says it requires.

The viability assessment also shows that Grosvenor hasn’t applied for GLA grant funding, which would enable it to provide more affordable housing, despite the Mayor’s policy requirement that estate regenerations seek grant funding to maximise the provision of affordable housing.

Also, no detailed evidence was supplied showing how the demolition proposals comply with the Mayor’s policy requiring demolition to be pursued only as a last resort.

You can read more about the Cundy Street estate on our web page here or browse the planning application supporting documents on Westminster’s planning portal here - (ref:20/03307/FULL).

Ebury Bridge estate - No alternatives considered, no ballot and no Mayoral funding

Westminster Council has also recently approved its own application for the demolition of the nearby Ebury Bridge estate.

The estate comprising 336 homes (198 social rent/138 leasehold) is due to be replaced by 781 homes of which 239 social rent - an uplift of just 41 social rented units despite more than doubling the density.

The approval comes as the Mayor announces a “‘retrofit revolution’ to tackle the climate emergency”..

The estate is being redeveloped by Westminster Council itself at an estimated net cost to the Council of £198m according to figures in the planning application’s viability study.

If the Mayor is serious about his ‘retrofit revolution’ he could use his ‘call-in’ powers to take over the planning application and explore whether £198m of public money might be better spent on the environmental, economic and social benefits of refurbishment.

As with Cundy Street, there is nothing in the planning application documents showing that demolition is being pursued as a last resort. Similarly, there is no intention to apply for Mayoral grant funding to increase the level of affordable housing. In this instance the GLA has raised this issue with Westminster, pointing out that seeking grant funding is a policy requirement of the London Plan (H8).

Westminster’s response was as follows: “It is noted in this respect that Mayoral funding is dependant on the successful completion of a resident ballot .. The Council do not wish to undertake a resident ballot, it believes one-off votes on regeneration projects are, by their nature, a snapshot in time and are no substitute for comprehensive opinion recording over a sustained period .. Balloting now would therefore result in undue delays to application submission, alongside potentially frustrating residents who are widely keen for the estate’s renewal to commence.” (see appendix 8 of the planning application’s viability study)

You can read more about the Ebury Bridge estate here and view the planning application supporting documents here (ref: 20/04366/COOUT).

Aylesbury estate: obvious question – if these homes can be refurbished why are they being knocked down?

Southwark’s Cabinet member for Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development has announced that 80 homes on remaining phases of the Aylesbury estate have been refurbished to be let out as temporary accommodation to families on the Council’s housing waiting list.

The homes have been refurbished to Southwark Good Homes Standard and will be available to let from July until this fourth phase of the estate is finally ‘decanted’. The Aylesbury estate is London’s largest estate redevelopment and is set to take 15 years to complete. Approximately 700 of the estate’s 2,759 homes have been demolished to date and phase 1 of 4 is currently under construction.

Southwark Council has spent at least £50m on the Aylesbury scheme to date with a further £193m of council funds committed to phase 1 alone, with no net increase in the number of social rented homes.

This begs an obvious question: if these homes can be refurbished to acceptable standards for habitation, why are they being knocked down?

You can read more about the Aylesbury estate on our web page here.

Estate Watch zoom meeting

The date of the next Zoom meeting is Thursday 29 July at 2pm. Please email info@londontenants.org to request attendance and further details.

NB. Estate Watch meetings are exclusively for tenants and leaseholders of estates that are under threat of demolition, have managed to stave off demolition or whose estates are currently being demolished.

Written on June 22, 2021