Piers Thompson’s estate regeneration consultation response

From: Piers Thompson
Subject: Estate Regeneration Consultation
Date: 14 March 2017 13:00:58 GMT
To: erguideconsultation@london.gov.uk

 

I am writing as an individual and also on behalf of Silchester Residents Association. Silchester East and West is an estate in W10 by Latimer Road tube which is under threat of regeneration. The vast majority of residents oppose demolition and feel that RBKC are not listening to us.

Might I first remind the Mayor of his manifesto commitment.

“Require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation.”

This draft document provides no reassurance to existing estate residents that this pledge will be upheld. It does not define transparent consultation. Our experience in Silchester is of a Council deliberately obfuscating and misleading: from advertising consultations at 24 hours notice, and holding consultations to inform a master plan without making this clear to residents, to simply excluding unwelcome comments from summaries of feedback. We had to extract the financial viability assessment by FOI request.

We understand the Mayor’s caution around ballots. However, we believe that at the end of truly transparent consultation process (ie when all options have been fully explored, all rights clarified and timescales fully explained), there should be a vote of all residents (social tenants, HA tenants, property owners) on whether demolition proposals are acceptable to the existing community. This land is our land. If it is to be transferred to private ownership, we must be the decision makers.

Cllr Feilding Mellen, Cabinet member for regeneration, told us that the aim of the project was to take people off the waiting list and out of temporary accommodation. From the Viability Assessment, we learn that only secure social tenants will be rehoused. Commitments to residents (tenants and leaseholders) are couched in maybes and are at best aspirations. He has twice told us that even if every single resident signed a petition opposing demolition, the final decision will be taken by RBKC’s Cabinet. Incidentally, Cllr Feilding Mellen recently bought a house 100 metres south of the estate.

The guidance appears to have been written only for landlords and not for residents. It offers no clarity or substance for residents needing advice to help them put forward alternatives or defend their homes against demolition. Indeed, there seems little input from residents. There seems no value put on community. We believe that the Mayor must insist that the burden rests with Councils that a compelling case is made that the long term benefits to existing residents far outweigh the considerable uncertainty and disruption that such projects cause. Regeneration is a weasel word. It means demolishing the actual homes of actual people. In my own case, it would mean forcing me out of the borough where I have spent my whole life. I am a freeholder who believed his home was his castle. This is just one example of the collateral damage of ‘regeneration’.

The check list of key requirements need to be clearer, more prescriptive and measurable. They need to be enforceable and must enable residents to hold councils to account. At the moment they are ambiguous and open to a wide variety of interpretations. Residents facing the loss of their homes need protections from the rapacious predations of Councils like RBKC. The guidance needs to factor in the value of community, not just the price of new homes sold off plan to overseas investors. Otherwise the guidance appears to be a charter for social cleansing. Transparent viability assessments must be issued for all projects.

If I may quote the Mayor, “social housing…is a foundation of our mixed city”. London is unique amongst the great cities of the world in the way rich and poor rub up against each other. One of the joys of RBKC is the way social housing can sit next to £5m mansions. We call upon the Mayor to do everything in his power to keep it that way.

One small suggestion. The Mayor should work to remove the anomaly whereby demolition and rebuilding attracts zero per cent VAT whilst refurbishment attracts 20%. This tilts the scales too far towards demolition.

 

Piers Thompson

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