Don’t demolish the Aylesbury estate! Use empty flats for temporary accommodation.
Residents of the Aylesbury estate (next to Burgess park) in Walworth have been fighting against the demolition of their estate by Southwark council for years. The Aylesbury estate is a large council estate which is home to council tenants, homeless households in temporary accommodation, leaseholders and private tenants (renting from leaseholders) and occasionally squatters. The majority of the residents are council tenants and, like the Walworth and Elephant and Castle neighourhood, the tenants are from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Before the demolition of parts of the estate there were 2,402 council homes. A further 356 homes had been sold under right to buy and were in private ownership.
The council’s plans for the Aylesbury are similar to those of the Heygate estate which was just a few minutes walk away – the demolition of good quality council homes and the destruction and displacement of local communities to be replaced with private homes which no one on Southwark’s housing waiting list can afford to live in. The Heygate demolition is accepted by the majority of people as being a terrible deal for everyone – including Southwark council – with only property developers Lendlease benefiting. Yet the council do not seem to have learned lessons from this and are still taking huge financial risks.
Southwark council celebrate the Compulsory Purchase Order but ALAG fight back
Last month, councillors celebrated the granting of a Compulsory Purchase Order for the ‘first development site’. However, the Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group responded to this with a strong public statement about their fight for their homes. We’ve copied the statement below and we look forward to supporting them.
On the Aylesbury estate a number of blocks have been demolished already, but there is still a lot of the estate left standing and residents and supporters still fighting for it.
No more long journeys to school while flats lie empty on the Aylesbury!
In HASL, many of our members are homeless families and individuals, and families living in severely overcrowded private rented housing. Many homeless families are being housed in temporary accommodation far outside the borough on the edges of London, in places they have never heard of. The long distance from their schools, work and community has huge impacts on their lives. Our member R has to travel 2 hours each way to school and back with her son and her 2 year old baby. Her baby cries on the bus and her son is sometimes sick on the bus. Other families are enduring appalling conditions in severely overcrowded private rented housing. Yet an entire Aylesbury block of good quality, spacious council homes stands empty next to Burgess park which our members would be desperate to live in.
Good quality homes that need refurbishment not demolition!
The homes on the estate are good quality and spacious. Due to a lack of investment from the council, there are problems with disrepair and the heating system, but these are problems that can resolved without demolishing the estate (however, it is convenient for the council to use this disrepair as an argument for the demolition). As the Ledbury Action Group have pointed out, if the council can repair Ledbury estate, there’s no reason they can’t do the repairs and refurbishment needed on the Aylesbury.
The Aylesbury estate has a really good mix of different sized council homes, with many of the homes being 3, 4, and 5 bedroom council homes – exactly the family-sized council homes that many Southwark households on the housing waiting list are desperately in need of. This makes it even more painful to see these homes next to Burgess park stand empty and then turned into rubble.
A few years ago, one of our members was housed on the estate in temporary accommodation. When she was offered a permanent council house, she was sad to leave her Aylesbury home which was more spacious than her new council home.
Supporting our members to be housed back in borough on the Aylesbury estate
We have at least 5 families in our group who have been housed in temporary accommodation out of borough and are having to travel long distances each day back into Southwark. They are all desperate to be housed back in their home borough and would happily accept temporary accommodation on the Aylesbury estate (or even a secure council tenancy there!). We have submitted suitability reviews and requested that the council house them in temporary accommodation on the Aylesbury and we will continue to support them with their cases to return home to Southwark.
Making the housing waiting list even longer
As well as good quality homes standing empty whilst homeless families suffer, the Aylesbury estate also impacts on our members and other homeless families because as the council demolishes the estate it must re-house all of the council tenants that live there. The Aylesbury tenants are put into band 1 on the housing register so that they can bid for a new council home. This means that council tenants who already have a home are put on the housing register ahead of households with a high housing need such as homelessness or overcrowding. It’s not fair on the Aylesbury tenants being forced from their homes and estate and it’s not fair on others on the housing list desperately waiting for a council home.
By ‘de-canting’ (removing) all of the council tenants on the Aylesbury estate and into new council homes, the council will have added years in waiting time for families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded households.
How can Southwark council justify making families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded housing wait years longer to get the secure council homes they desperately need?
What has happened to all the 3, 4, 5 bed council homes?
Recently, on Southwark council’s Homesearch (housing register), the number of 3 bed council homes has been 1 or 2 a week. When previously there were 5-10 each week – still not enough for the high need for 3 bed homes but better than 1 or 2 each week. At our meetings, there are at least 10 families there who all need 3 bedroom council homes. We sit together and know that no one there will get the one home advertised that week. We suspect that the massive decrease in 3 bedroom council homes on the Homesearch this year is due to the de-canting of the Aylesbury estate. Urgent action is needed from the council to ensure that there are more 3, 4, 5 bed council homes available on Homesearch for families in housing need. One simple way to do this is to stop the demolition of the Aylesbury estate and work with tenants and residents on refurbishment.
This is a fight for secure, quality council homes for both current tenants and those in housing need. Council tenants and other residents on the Aylesbury are fighting for their homes, communities and estate and for it’s refurbishment. As HASL, a group of homeless, overcrowded and poorly housed families and individuals, we support them and we fight for the good council homes we need too!
Public statement from the Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group
Follow them on twitter here.
A CPO is a failure for everyone, and it should never be celebrated.
We, members of ALAG (Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group) are disappointed at the negative outcome of the first development site CPO (compulsory purchase order). The ruling affects one remaining ALAG resident leaseholder directly, but it also affects all of us living through estate regenerations on the Aylesbury and beyond.
We are also not greatly surprised by this ruling. The last leaseholder in phase 1 kept fighting against the CPO after other objectors reached a last minute confidential agreement with Southwark Council and after they withdrew the bulk of the evidence from the case, against the wishes of most ALAG members. Without legal representation and without most of the evidence and witnesses at her disposal, the remaining leaseholder’s chances were stacked against her. London Borough of Southwark had the advantage of large resources, a full legal team, two powerful barristers on their side, all paid for by our taxes. Our friend only had her own limited time and resources on her side. This inequality of arms did however not stop her from putting her case forward, and it did not stop ALAG from supporting her.
The deal struck by the other leaseholders is based on a Shared Equity Policy – a policy that was sold to them as a ‘new’ option for leaseholders, although we know it was on the table as far back as 2006; as we’ve pointed out before, ALAG does not consider this policy satisfactory because of the negative conditions it imposes on inheritance, rental and stair-casing, which would mean leaseholders will be losing out in a major way: we have always said that the regeneration of our estate should not mean that the council can take our homes and leave us in a worse situation than before. The estate should either be refurbished for its current residents, or we should be offered a like-for-like replacement home: NOT a shared ownership that will put us back into debt, NOT a shared equity with less rights, NOT a flat outside of London away from our families, jobs, communities and networks. None of these options are acceptable for us.
We have lived and contributed to this community for years and decades; with a lot of effort and work we have bought our flats. Many of us will never be able to get another mortgage: many of us are on low incomes, many are getting on, many are from migrant backgrounds and have struggled hard to make a life in this country for us and our kids. We do not deserve to pay the price of this regeneration!
Inspector Whitehead and the Secretary of State agreed that the human rights of the remaining leaseholders are being interfered with. They agreed that their ruling will have a disproportionately large effect on elderly and BAME residents. However, this is not enough to stop the scheme for them. They also consider the refurbishment option ‘not viable’ – as the demolition of buildings on the first development site has been under way since mid-2015, we are not too surprised that at this stage, refurbishing a mountain of rubble cannot be considered a viable option. In their opinion, all the negative outcomes of the scheme are either mitigated or are a ‘fait accompli’ that cannot be undone. However, we see no mitigation in the options we are being offered.
Our local leaders stubbornly continue to refuse to respond to our demands, and they continue to fail to treat us with dignity; we strongly condemn the celebratory tweets that council leader Peter John and ward councillor Jack Buck wrote after the CPO ruling was made public, in which they celebrate the outcome of the CPO: these messages are a further proof of their complete lack of empathy and understanding of our situation, and a slap in the face to each of us. A CPO is a failure for everyone, and it should never be celebrated.
Despite and because of the treatment we are receiving, we will continue to fight for our rights and those of our fellow residents, council tenants, temporary tenants and others. We believe LBS will use this CPO ruling to steamroll through the removal of the remaining leaseholders on the rest of the estate. However, there’s 200 of us left, and we will continue our fight: we will now open a case with the Lands Tribunal to contest the low valuations on the estate and to contest the low blight factor. After years of neglect, lack of maintenance and general running down of the estate, the blight factor affecting us is certainly more than 10%. We ask the Secretary of State and LBS if they are able to find a new home for us on the open market with the valuations they are offering us at the moment – and we bet they will not be able to.
We will also contest the imminent CPOs to residents on Plot 18: a 15 floor tower block is planned on the site, entirely for private sale, which, by the council’s own admission, will completely overshadow the neighbouring homes and streets. We will not allow leaseholders to be CPOed for such a scheme.
We will continue to share information, network and fight together – and we welcome any resident on the estate to join us in our struggle. Only by sticking together we can face this injustice.
ALAG press statement – 19 November 2018
in response to FDS CPO ruling 14/11/2018