Decision details

Investing in better neighbourhoods and building the homes we need to house the people of Lambeth – Central Hill Estate

Decision Maker: Cabinet

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes

Purpose:

Decision on the future of the Central Hill estate – redevelopment / refurbishment

Decisions:

The Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Matthew Bennett, introduced the report and highlighted the poor condition of many of the properties on Central Hill estate. He noted the budgetary confines the council was working within and explained that the cost of refurbishing Central Hill would be substantially more than the average costs of other estates in the borough. Refurbishment works would also fail to address the fundamental design flaws on the estate. Residents had been consulted on the proposal to rebuild the estate, a course of action that would guarantee all existing residents a new home on Central Hill whilst providing more affordable homes to tackle the housing crisis.

 

Councillor Bennett noted the alternative proposals submitted by Architects for Social Housing (ASH) but asserted that the plans did not constitute a viable option. As part of the consultation exercise, the council had commissioned The Campaign Company (TCC) to conduct surveys and gain feedback from residents. Councillor Bennett explained the findings and stated that the redevelopment was the best way to guarantee residents a high quality home on the estate. Should Cabinet endorse the proposed recommendations, residents would be able to choose the architects and development managers during the next stage of the process. He also confirmed that there would be no private developers involved in the regeneration and that no decision would be taken tonight about the number of new homes.

 

The Chair invited registered to speakers to address the committee.

 

Ms Nicola Curtis (Chair of the Central Hill Residents Association and member of the Residents Engagement Panel), Ms Karen Bennett (Secretary of the Central Hill Residents Association) and Victor Hernandez (member of the Central Hill Residents Association and Residents Engagement Panel) addressed the committee and raised the following concerns:

 

·         The Lambeth regeneration programme began in 2012 and Central Hill was included because of the high land values.

·         The consultation had been informal, misleading and ultimately flawed.

·         There had initially been no option to demolish the estate, however this was now the only option under consideration.

·         The council had not been forthcoming with proposed plans about the intended regeneration of the estate. Residents had to seek information and documentation independently.

·         The various versions of the Key Guarantees had caused uncertainty and emotional distress amongst residents. Many of the previous principles had become mechanisms in the latest version and were consequently subject to change by officers and Cabinet Members. The recent amendments served to take rights away from residents.

·         The council initially estimated that it would cost £18.5m to refurbish the estate, yet there was no evidence to support this and residents disputed this figure. The costs had now risen to an £40m without further evidence to support the claim.

·         The council should fulfil its obligations as social landlord and commit to proper maintenance of the existing properties.

·         ASH had provided a viable alternative for redevelopment that would provide additional social housing through development on existing open land. The council had dismissed the proposals without consideration.

·         TCC could not be said to be independent of the council. The methodology was questionable and the findings were unrepresentative of the views on the estate. There were no mechanism within the Resident Engagement Panel allowing for residents to challenge the assumptions of the survey.

·         25% of residents on the estate were elderly and would be severely distressed if forced to relocate.

·         Residents had conducted their own survey of attitudes on the estate and the results contrasted with those produced by TCC. According to the residents’ own survey, the vast majority of households (77%) were opposed to demolition. Only 4% supported regeneration. These figures had been verified and the council could no longer claim that the majority of residents supported rebuilding the estate.

·         The properties on the estate had fallen into disrepair following deliberate neglect from the landlord, Lambeth Council. However, the buildings were structurally sound and refurbishment was the favoured option for residents.

·         Residents anticipated that Homes for Lambeth would be a private venture and the new homes sold off for private gain. This would spell the end of social housing on the estate.

·         The motivation behind the regeneration of the estate was money. Resident’s lives should instead to be prioritised.

·         The legality of the council’s plans could also be called into question.

·         The process of formal buy-back of leaseholds was a key concern. There were now very limited options for buy-backs available to homeowners.

·         Should Cabinet approve the recommendations, many residents would face losing their right to housing. Some residents were citizens of the European Union; their rights to residency and housing would both be in jeopardy. 

 

[At 7pm, Cabinet agreed to extend the meeting by 30 minutes in line with the provisions set out in paragraph 2.3.5 of the Cabinet Procedure Rules, Council Constitution]

 

The Chair then invited the remaining registered speakers to address the committee.

 

Ms Betty Adams, a resident Central Hill Estate, raised the following points:

 

·         The properties on the estate were visibly deteriorating and in an irretrievable state of disrepair. Total regeneration was required to improve living conditions for residents. There were fundamental design flaws in the current estate that could not be addressed through refurbishment.

·         The roofs, balconies, severe damp and mould were contributing factors to the ill health of multiple residents. No amount of refurbishment could eradicate these issues and change was necessary.

 

The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Tim Briggs, made the following comments:

 

·         Council officers should not be delegated the authority to amend the mechanisms by which the Key Guarantees were implemented.

·         The council had offered no alternative to regeneration and could not claim to therefore could not claim to have consulted the residents.

·         The council was pursuing demolition of Central Hill and higher rents for residents.

·         The residents’ own survey had changed the nature of the debate and cast considerable doubt over the TCC findings. It was wholly unacceptable that the council’s findings could not be scrutinised or disputed. 

·         The council had stubbornly refused to listen to residents and only reconsidered the offer to residents following the Secretary of State’s decision not to confirm the Aylesbury CPO in Southwark.

·         The Conservatives would repair properties on Central Hill, reorganise the Council’s housing department, drive down costs and fund regeneration on all Lambeth’s estates.

 

Councillor Luke Murphy, Ward Councillor for Gipsy Hill, made the following comments:

 

·         Having spoken with many residents of Central Hill, it was clear that views were split over the need for regeneration. However the majority of people recognised the current circumstances and need to rebuild housing on the estate.

·         There were many examples of severe mould and damp that could not be eradicated through refurbishment and repairs.

·         All residents would be guaranteed a new home on the estate and the local ward councillors supported the proposals.

·         The consultation had been imperfect and it was important that the council learned from its mistakes when progressing into further stages of the regeneration.

·         The council was committed to the Key Guarantees and ward councillors would hold Cabinet to account. 

 

Following the representations, the Chair invited officers to respond to issues raised. The Estate Regeneration Programme Manager, Julian Hart, Assistant Director of Housing Regeneration, Neil Vokes, and Director of Strategic Housing, Regeneration and Communities, Rachel Sharpe, provided the following information.

 

·         A separate Cabinet decision would be required to move the formal buy-back programme forward. Officers would determine priority by sending out expression of interests and assessing residents’ circumstances on a case by case basis.

·         The process of consultation had been longer than anticipated, in part due to the size and complex geography of the estate.

·         The council had commissioned TCC to conduct the survey, gain impartial feedback from residents and provide independent analysis of the data. Moving forward, the council would seek to involve residents throughout the masterplanning process, adopting a methodology that had worked well in other parts of the borough.

·         The survey information collected by TCC was open for public scrutiny.

·         Officers knew more about the costs of regeneration having confirmed the Key Guarantees. The Key Guarantees were integral to the viability of the scheme.

·         Officers would look at the residents’ own survey.

 

Officers then provided the following information in response to questions from members of Cabinet:

 

·         The anticipated £20m in upfront costs included provision to fund the leasehold buy-back scheme.

·         Officers were confident that the viability announcements made in the report were realistic.

·         Central Hill residents would be central to the masterplanning process and every effort would be made to reduce uncertainty and stress for residents. An initial piece of survey work would be undertaken to establish how residents wished to engage with the council and officers would also organise ad hoc events, exhibitions and drop-in sessions.

·         The council had commissioned TCC to undertake the resident survey and officers had worked through the methodology before the questionnaire had been distributed. TCC had carried out the survey, collated the data and analysed the finding independently of the council.

 

Members of the Cabinet commented on issued raised by speakers and emphasised the importance of working with residents to minimise uncertainty and emotional distress. Having considered all the contributing factors, Members agreed that most viable option would be to progress with the proposed rebuilding of the Central Hill estate. The Chair put the recommendations to the vote.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    To authorise the redevelopment of the Central Hill Estate in accordance with the approach set out in Section 2 of the report.

2.    To implement the Key Guarantees as adopted by the council for the estate regeneration programme.

3.    In consultation with the lead member, officers to begin the masterplanning phase.

 

 

Report author: Julian Hart

Publication date: 29/03/2017

Date of decision: 23/03/2017

Decided at meeting: 23/03/2017 - Cabinet

Effective from: 06/04/2017

This decision has been called in by:

Accompanying Documents: