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The Future of the Central Hill Estate

Local ward councillor and Cabinet Member for Housing Matthew Bennett blogs on the future of the Central Hill Estate in Gipsy Hill

I’ve been a local councillor for the Central Hill estate since 2010.  Over the past seven years while knocking on doors and asking residents what’s important to them, the same issues come up again and again.  Too many homes suffer from damp, from mould, from disrepair.  Too many homes have problems with their drains, the kitchens and bathrooms are dilapidated and need replacing, roofs and water pipes leak.  The estate needs at least £18m of investment to bring it up to a decent standard, possibly twice as much by some estimates.  Many families are living overcrowded conditions in homes that are just too small and over a quarter of tenants are on the council’s transfer list, trying to move away.

Around 18 months ago we started working with residents to look at all the potential solutions.  We wanted to work together to see how, despite huge cuts to council budgets, we could provide residents with better homes that they’ve waited too long for.  Nobody underestimates how difficult and stressful that uncertainty has been, or how disruptive estate regeneration can be for residents.  But the last 18 months have meant that every option has been robustly checked and challenged and it means we can say with absolute confidence that having looked at all options that the best outcome for the residents of Central Hill is for the estate to be fully rebuilt to a higher standard.

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Local councillors Jennifer Brathwaite, Luke Murphy and Matthew Bennett on the Central Hill estate

In Lambeth we’re committed to controlling the estate regeneration process and ensuring it is a better and fairer than elsewhere.  There is:

  • no private developer involved
  • no sale of land and
  • no handing over of homes to a separate housing association.

We’ve also worked with tenants and leaseholders on a set of ‘Key Guarantees’, which explain the council’s offer to anyone affected by estate regeneration.

We guarantee that all tenants can:

  • stay on the new estate, getting more bedrooms if they’re currently overcrowded, in a home with a lifetime tenancy at council rent levels; or
  • take the highest priority on the housing allocation system and choose another council home in Lambeth with a secure tenancy.

We guarantee that resident homeowners will:

  • have their homes independently valued, getting an extra 10% on top of the value and be compensated for any expenses;
  • have the option to buy a home on the new estate which they will own outright or take up one of the shared ownership arrangements (depending on their circumstances); or
  • be provided a rented home at a rent they can afford if homeownership isn’t feasible anymore.

The Key Guarantees mean nobody has to leave Central Hill who wants to stay and everyone can have a new home on the rebuilt estate.

Rebuilding also means we can increase the number of homes for council rent.  London faces a social housing shortage but in Lambeth we’re building 1000 extra homes at council level rents to help some of the thousands of people on our waiting list.

Hundreds of additional council level rent homes are already planned on other estates in Lambeth, as well as on brownfield sites like Somerleyton Road.  New council rent level homes have already been built at St. Oswald’s Place and Akerman Road.  Unlike with other regeneration schemes, in Lambeth we are increasing social housing and investing in the future of our community.

The new homes will also be larger; with higher environmental and energy-efficiency credentials; and built to Lifetime Homes standard, so that people can stay in their homes if they have mobility problems.  We will also design bespoke homes for residents with disabilities, so they can stay living in their community, in a home built to meet their exact needs.

The consultation runs until mid-November, giving everyone on the estate a chance to share their views on the proposals, as well as the offers set out in the Key Guarantees.  It will also allow enough time for the council to listen to what’s being said and respond to any concerns before a decision is made.

We know that proposing to rebuild the estate makes this is a difficult and potentially distressing time for residents.  But we can’t pretend there’s no problem with the condition of residents’ homes, we can’t ignore the best solution and it would be unfair and irresponsible to promise refurbishment when we know we can’t deliver it.  

Cllr Matthew Bennett

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commented 2016-10-16 13:24:33 +0100
Dear Cllr Bennet,

As you know I am a member of Central Hill Resident Engagement Panel (REP), I am really sorry to see that your recollection of events is so different from the reality we have been living in the REP for the last year and a half.

Nobody will dispute the housing crisis in Lambeth and London, although I disagree I neither won’t argue that regeneration is the best and only tool to solve this situation as many Labour councils claim.
If you really want to build a new Estate you will need first protect the community and the residents of the estate and most importantly make them participants and not just passive observers whose views are push aside as soon as they disagree with the Council goals.

• You know that in the Central Hill REP you promise that ANY homeowners in Central Hill Estate willing to carry on with their lives if they wish will be allowed to have Early-Buy backs (EBB) from the council. And you promised that was going to be in the new set of Key Guarantees. It is sad to see that this promise has being broken and now NOT a single word about this appeared in your report and not a single word of EBB appears in the Key Guarantees and NOT a single word of EBB appear in ANY consultation material Lambeth has produced for the consultation.
• On top of that we were promised that ALL leaseholders willing to come back to the Estate will be able to come back to the new Estate if the wished to without any alteration of their financial position in the shared ownership no-rent.

Independently of their age, financial situation, family problems, community network and so on ANY of the leaseholders should be forced to leave their community or get huge massive loans or pay enormoues interest rates in their new mortgages. They didn’t put themselves in this situation and they should pay and suffer for it.

Many residents believe these Key Guarantees ARE NOT sufficient to secure the safety and future of tenants and leaseholders of Central Hill. I am not the only one with these distressing worries.

Those concerns are not just coming from me or just a few “radical residents” as the Council will express it. Let me just remind you that:

• The Independent Resident Advisors (PPCR), paid by Lambeth Council, have expressed in writing their SERIOUS CONCERNS about the Consultation Material and the serious danger the extremely ambiguous new set Key Guarantees proposed pose to the residents.
• Also the Chair of the Resident engagement Panel, Reverend Jonathan Croucher, has expressed many times in writing how he sees the FRUSTRATION AND DISTRESS the residents involved suffer constantly because of Lambeth Council actions, inactions, delays and broken promises during this so-called engagement and consultation process.

The Council have to put the residents in charge, give them responsibility positions and works with them at all levels. This is the key for a success. Don’t be afraid Matthew, is not too late to rectify and let us all believe our future will be better.

Victor Hernandez, resident of Central Hill Estate and member of the Central Hill Engagement Panel.
commented 2016-10-16 10:56:59 +0100
It’s surprising you can say with “absolute confidence that demolition is the best option” before the consultation, a good example of the disregard for views of residents. Homes for sale on the estate have been £100-250k in recent years, many of them are lovely and spacious with no problems at all; whereas on the new estate there’ll be sky high prices. The environmental and social cost of bulldozing good homes seems to be ignored.

There are plenty of areas for potential infill but the unexplained view of the council is that infill couldn’t be used to fund repairs in other parts of the estate that need it whilst perfectly good homes are left as they are.

If this truly delivers many more, high quality homes for tenants then I’m in favour, but the record of the council on that does not suggest it is likely. Demolition will begin, the contractor will claim costs have gone up and they have to reduce the promised level of social housing – it’s the same story on repeat.
commented 2016-10-16 06:13:30 +0100
Cllr Bennett you are not telling the truth. You are bulldozing the regeneration of Central Hill for profitable and expensive housing at the expense of affordable housing. The current housing are not is of good standard and very spacious but has suffered lack of maintenance, especially during your tenure, resulting in leaking roofs and mould in some instances. All we residents want maintenance of existing houses and it entirely not true that it would cost £18M to maintain the Estate. Cllr. you are on record refusing maintenance suggestions by residents as your intention was to have the estate run down so that it would be attractive to demolition. WHY price people out of their livelihood and the expense of profit.
commented 2016-10-16 06:13:29 +0100
Cllr Bennett you are not telling the truth. You are bulldozing the regeneration of Central Hill for profitable and expensive housing at the expense of affordable housing. The current housing are not is of good standard and very spacious but has suffered lack of maintenance, especially during your tenure, resulting in leaking roofs and mould in some instances. All we residents want maintenance of existing houses and it entirely not true that it would cost £18M to maintain the Estate. Cllr. you are on record refusing maintenance suggestions by residents as your intention was to have the estate run down so that it would be attractive to demolition. WHY price people out of their livelihood and the expense of profit.

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