K+C Labour Group’s estate regeneration consultation response

Mayor of London

HOMES FOR LONDONERS
Draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration
December 2016

Response of the Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group of Councillors

 

10 March 2017

Estate Regeneration Consultation
Housing & Land Directorate
City Hall
The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA

The Labour Group of Councillors of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) welcomes the consultation on the Mayor’s draft good practice Guide to Estate Regeneration. In Kensington and Chelsea we have significant experience of estate demolition and regeneration as currently practised by Catalyst Housing at Wornington Green, London W10 and as proposed by RBKC at Warwick Road W8, Barlby, Burleigh and Treverton W10, Silchester East and West W10 and at four smaller blocks of social housing in London W10 and W11.

  • We welcome this draft as a first stage in the Mayor’s thinking but recognise that without much stricter and more robust principles and effective monitoring and enforcement, these guidelines will not fully safeguard the interests of estate residents nor address the crisis in social housing in London boroughs.
  • We endorse the Mayor’s manifesto commitment that estate regeneration will only take place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation.
  • We disagree fundamentally with the Mayor that estate regeneration should lead only to no loss of social housing. We believe that it must be a condition of any estate regeneration that it will lead to a net increase in the quantum of social rented housing as opposed to “affordable” housing. This is not “affordable” in Kensington and Chelsea or many other parts of London.
  • We understand the Mayor’s caution around using ballots or votes. However, we believe that at the end of the consultation process, when all options have been fully explored, all rights clarified and all timescales explained, there should be a ballot of all residents (including private tenants) as to whether a proposed decision to regenerate can be accepted. Older estates have been paid for many times over by their current and previous residents and effectively belong to them. They must therefore have the right to decide the future of their own homes. This will honour the Mayor’s manifesto commitment that estate regeneration will only take place where there is resident support.
  • The safeguards set out in the consultation document governing the aims and objectives of estate regeneration, consultation and engagement with residents and the fair deal for tenants and leaseholders are welcome.
  • We also welcome the inclusion of a checklist of key requirements. These requirements need to be clearer, more prescriptive, measureable and most importantly, capable of enforcement. They must contain no ambiguity, time limited clauses or loopholes, since these are vital protections for residents facing the loss of their homes.
  • In RBKC, residents face the transfer of much public land and homes to the private sector, along with substantial profits for property developers, with no new floor space for additional social rented homes. Yet in April 2016 RBKC told the Information Commissioner that regeneration is needed because there are “over 2767 households on a waiting list for affordable housing; and approximately 1800 households in temporary accommodation … which the council has a duty to rehouse”. RBKC’s May 2016 brief to architects preparing a masterplan for the Silchester Estate affecting 670 households says that one over-arching objective was to “provide the additional homes of all tenures that the borough needs”. [Our emphasis]

The Mayor says that good practice to approach estate regeneration puts local people at its heart and he wants Londoners to be given real opportunities to shape estate regeneration. Residents in RBKC have not been put at the heart of estate regeneration. Consequently the RBKC Labour Group is asking the Mayor of London to consider seriously our recommendations below for additional enforceable procedures to drive his Guide for estate regeneration.

The Aims and Objectives of Estate Regeneration

  • Before the aims and objectives of estate regeneration are determined, it must be a condition that no estate is deliberately run down and left in disrepair to justify regeneration. In order to meet the transparency test, any proposal to regenerate must be accompanied by full details of all repair and maintenance programmes completed on the estate in the previous ten years.
  • When a council surveys residents for their views on the condition of their homes, it should be made clear at the outset that this may be the start of a process leading to proposals for regeneration.
  • Where residents attend consultations that are to inform the development of an estate masterplan, they must be made aware that this is why they are being consulted.
  • Training should be arranged to assist residents to understand plans fully and be involved in strategic decisions, thus to enable more meaningful consultation.

The Selection of Estates for Regeneration

Thereafter, selection of estates for regeneration must be guided and confirmed against a clear set of published criteria, the most important of which are:

  1. that the regeneration will result in a significant increase in social rented housing in order to tackle the council’s social housing waiting list
  2. that the estate is beyond repair and regeneration through demolition is the only way to provide this increase in social housing; and
  3. before a final decision to regenerate is taken, it will be confirmed through an independently-conducted ballot of all the estate residents.

The Consultation Process

  • The process will begin with an extensive consultation with residents and other stakeholders. Consultation with hard to reach groups – such as people who are housebound, those do not have written or spoken English, who have literacy problems or are disabled, should run concurrently and not be left as an add-on at the end of the process.
  • Members of the local business community and residents in the wider neighbourhood will also be made aware of the proposals at an early stage.
  • All options will be available at all consultation meetings. (RBKC is in the middle of a consultation that has omitted the infill and intensification option. This option was not included in the masterplan brief provided to architects, despite the Cressingham Gardens judgment. It will be not be produced until later, which raises questions as to the validity of this consultation.)
  • Viability assessments will be publicly available in an easily understood format. A cost-benefit analysis of all the options will be provided so that residents may understand the benefits of regeneration as set against all its costs, including the hidden costs. The profit to be taken out of the scheme by a development partner will be clearly highlighted.
  • The Decant Policy, the Housing Allocations Policy, the Leaseholder and Freeholder Strategy will all be available at this stage in the process to enable residents to make decisions based on access to the best information possible.
  • Wherever possible, options will be environmentally-friendly, for example involving retrofitting, in-fill development, additional storeys to preserve embodied carbon etc. to achieve regeneration more quickly and less contentiously than full demolition and reconstruction, while keeping the resident community intact.

The Risk Assessment

  • Before proceeding to a decision on the future of an estate, the local authority should undertake a forensic risk assessment of the proposed decision. This must be made available to the residents in a clear and transparent format. Risks assessed could include whether:
    • the case for regeneration may be deemed environmentally unsound as air quality assessments may identify breaches of statutory guidelines
    • future iterations of the London Plan make the plans financially unviable
    • too much loss of light and too high a density render the plans unsound
    • an over-reliance on the sale of market housing to cross-subsidise the regeneration may not attract enough buyers,
    • legally challenged Compulsory Purchase Orders needed to permit redevelopment may succeed
    • a resident or group of residents could succeed with a Judicial Review of the plans
    • skills shortages in the construction industry will become more severe as Brexit evolves and will impact on the ability of any developer to complete the regeneration, potentially leaving a half-developed estate to blight the neighbourhood
    • unless there is a covenant that new properties may not be used as buy-to-let, buy-to-leave or for short term lets, community cohesion will be damaged
    • utilities, underground services and other site constraints may be unable to cope with the increased population density
    • relatively poor public transport services may be unable to cope with the increased population density.

Where Demolition and Redevelopment is Preferred

  • Where demolition and redevelopment is nevertheless the preferred way forward, there will be a ballot of all residents on the affected estate, to be organised by an independent body. The independent body will first satisfy itself that all possible information has been made available to residents to inform their decision.
  • If the ballot is opposed to regeneration, then alternative proposals will be drawn up.

Where Demolition and Redevelopment is Agreed

  • Where demolition and redevelopment is agreed by ballot, the new estate will be built to the highest possible standards, with an assurance that the authority/developer is not building something that will become a slum in 30 years.
  • The consultation process will lead to the production of an agreed Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). The development will not deviate from the terms of the SPD (unless to make improvements and then only with the full agreement of all stakeholders).
  • Regenerated estates may be rebuilt to a higher density, but should retain at least as much public open green space and playgrounds as before. It will not be acceptable to sacrifice public open green space to restore traditional street patterns that may no longer be relevant.
  • All current infrastructure – such as shops, nurseries, churches, public houses, community rooms – shall be fully reprovided. Where density is significantly higher than before, additional infrastructure facilities, including more public transport, should be incorporated as required.
  • Since a driving factor behind regeneration is to address London’s housing crisis, there will be a net increase in the provision of much needed social rented homes, as well as additional affordable housing and homes for market sale and rent. The local authority should introduce London Living Rents for all the affordable rented housing that will not be let at a social rent. It will not use dwellings that become void as the estate is redeveloped as a reason to reduce the quantum of social rented homes in the new development.
  • Homes for social and other sub-market rent will not be located on the worse parts of the estate and will be indistinguishable in quality from the rest of the estate.
  • No property for sale will be marketed out of the UK and/or as a buy-to-leave or a buy-to-let investment or for short term lettings of the AirBnB nature. A restrictive covenant to this effect shall be placed on the lease and this criterion will be strictly monitored and enforced by the local authority and/or housing association.
  • Once built, the new estate will be properly maintained and not be allowed to run down. This will become more complex over time, as the maintenance and repair of private sector homes will differ from the maintenance and repair programmes of those managed by the local authority or its agent.
  • All members of the existing resident community (including private tenants) who wish it will be offered a new home on site. This right will be clearly stated in the bespoke

Decant Policy, Housing Allocations Policy and Leaseholder Strategy that will have been agreed earlier with the estate’s residents.

Finally, we note that once the Mayor has published his final version of the good practice Guide, any future estate regeneration project that seeks funding from the GLA will be required to conform to the principles set out in the Guide. Because of the crisis in London’s social housing sector, we believe that GLA funding should not be provided unless the estate regeneration project includes an increased quantum of social housing.

Where an estate regeneration project does not apply for GLA funding, if it also does not increase the social housing quantum, then the Mayor should call it in for reconsideration. Otherwise, the Mayor’s statement that “the social housing [councils and housing associations] provide is a foundation of our mixed city. Indeed, it ensures that Londoners on low incomes have somewhere decent and affordable to live in the capital” will sound increasingly hollow and ultimately London will cease to be the world’s leading city.

 

Councillor Judith Blakeman
Chief Whip and Housing Spokesperson
RBKC Labour Group of Councillors
10 March 2017

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