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Keeping up to date with the latest news on estate regeneration in London.

November 2020 Bulletin

Here is our brief round up of estate regeneration news for September and October. Many thanks to everyone who got in touch to let us know what is going on with their estates.

GLA removes exemptions for Lambeth demolitions

Lambeth’s plans to raze six of its housing estates are up in the air, after it emerged that City Hall funding has been withdrawn for three major schemes (Fenwick estate, Westbury estate and Cressingham Gardens).

The news was revealed by a response to an FOI request from a member of the Cressingham estate People’s Plan and a subsequent letter of clarification from Deputy Mayor Tom Copley.

Inside Housing magazine reports the deputy Mayor as stating that any new funding bid would require residents to be balloted on the demolition of their homes. (you can register to gain free access to the article)

This could mean the end for some of these schemes, especially Cressingham Gardens estate where the Council’s plans have met with fierce opposition from the outset.

Cressingham residents have come forward with their own alternative regeneration plans, involving refurbishment and in-fill development. The Cressingham People’s Plan also conducted a survey showing that 86% of residents favoured refurbishment versus only 4% demolition.

Lambeth Council is reported to have said that it intends to proceed with at least one of the schemes (Westbury estate) regardless, using its own funding from Right to Buy receipts rather than GLA funding.

A loophole in the Mayor’s ballot requirement allows Councils to avoid balloting residents by avoiding applying for GLA funding altogether.

Westminster bypasses ballot for Ebury Bridge estate

Westminster Council is exploiting this loophole and avoiding a ballot on its Ebury Bridge estate by not applying for GLA funding.

Technically, the Mayor’s London Plan Policy 3.12 (Section A, sub-section [g]) requires all schemes to seek grant funding by virtue of the fact that it is a pre-requisite of the requirement to maximise the amount of affordable housing.

All eyes will now be on the Mayor as the final decision to approve the application or call it in lies with him. In the meantime, objections to Westminster’s proposals can be submitted directly to the Mayor using the GLA’s new online comment submission form. A copy of detailed objections to the scheme being submitted by residents and deputy Mayor Tom Copley can be downloaded here.

The Ebury estate regeneration is the first scheme undertaken by Westminster’s new Council-owned investment vehicle and perhaps the first of more such schemes to come. It will be up to the Mayor to decide whether he allows Westminster to by-pass his ballot requirement at Ebury Bridge and set a precedent for future schemes.

Reckoning looms for Wandsorth’s Alton estate

Wandsworth Council is also using the funding loophole to avoid balloting residents of its Alton estate in Roehampton.

In August, we reported that the Alton estate plans were in trouble, after the Council’s development partner pulled out. Despite this, Wandsworth Council vowed to press on with the scheme whilst it seeks a new partner and last week, the Council granted itself planning permission.

This is in spite of the Mayor’s concerns laid out in his stage 1 response to the planning application. These highlighted concerns about lack of consultation (para 36), quantum and rent levels of replacement ‘social housing’ (para 27) and the failure to apply for grant funding (para 39) and the failure to explore alternatives to demolition (para 20).

The requirement for the demolition of housing estates only to be considered as a last resort, is enshrined both in the Mayor’s Estate Regeneration Guidance and the London Plan itself:

Again, the Mayor has the power to ‘call-in’ Wandsworth’s application and again this will be a test of his will to tackle Council’s that evade his ballot requirement and which fail to weigh demolition against the significant environmental, social and economic benefits of refurbishment.

You can let the Mayor know what you think of Alton’s proposals, by submitting a comment on the GLA’s new planning portal using this link.

In the meantime, Alton estate residents have been getting organised and the Alton Action group has partnered with a group of researchers from University College London and the Just Space network to co-produce an alternative Community Plan, exploring alternatives to demolition. Research England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise) has been awarded a grant for the development of the Alton estate’s Community Plan[^1].

RIBA seeks to put Retrofit at forefront of 2030 NET ZERO policy

In October, RIBA held a virtual conference in conjunction with the Institute of Government as part of the Conservative Party’s fringe conference.

The conference discussed ways of meeting the government’s new target of net zero carbon development by 2030. Professor Gary Clark, Chair of RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group outlined the principles of RIBA’s new Sustainable Outcomes Guide, which recognises the huge impact of embodied carbon and prioritises the retrofit of existing buildings before any new-build is considered.

Retrofitting existing buildings is the first of RIBA’s key design principles, which it is lobbying to be incorporated into regulations in the form of a sustainable design code.

Alexandra Willey, Clarion housing association’s Head of Regeneration also took part in the conference. Alexandra re-iterated the extensive benefits of retrofit and talked about the group’s ambitious retrofit plans for its existing homes, as well as its recently becoming the first housing association to adopt the Sustainable Housing Label.

In the face of Alexandra’s claims, residents of the four London housing estates that Clarion has earmarked for demolition may start asking why Clarion hasn’t considered retrofitting their homes..

Wornington Word - new documentary about Wornington Green estate

The Renegade Theatre and the Venture Community Association have released a documentary about the regeneration of the Wornington Green estate.

The Wornington Word from RENEGADE THEATRE on Vimeo.

The documentary ‘Wornington Word’ stems from a project to record oral histories of residents’ experiences and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Phase 1 of the Wornington Green estate is complete and phase 2 is under construction. The ‘decanting’ of the remaining 150 homes on phase 3 is due to commence in late 2020, as is the consultation period prior to submission of a planning application.

You can read more about the Wornington Green estate regeneration here:

Estate Watch Zoom meeting

September’s Estate Watch zoom meeting was well attended, with representatives from around a dozen estates under threat sharing their experiences.

The date of the next Zoom meeting is yet to be confirmed.

Please email to request attendance and further details.

Postscript [^1]: This paragraph was re-worded post script, in order to more accurately describe the source of the grant funding and its recipients.