CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Estate regeneration ballot: Tenants’ vote halts homes demolition

Plans are rejected over concern overhaul of estates won’t ease the housing crisis

11 September, 2020

Karl Lewkowicz at Gilbeys Yard

TENANTS have stopped the demolition of their homes by voting against a complete overhaul of an estate, warning that they want proof the project will help to ease the borough’s housing crisis.

One Housing has been forced to pause plans for Gilbeys Yard and Juniper Crescent in Chalk Farm after a ballot saw 91 residents vote against going ahead with the scheme, to 61 who were in favour.

Under Greater London Authority rules on estate regeneration ballots, housing associations must have the support of existing tenants before beginning work.

One Housing want to flatten the current buildings and create 700 new units on the site, but residents say their homes – which were built in 1995 – need repairs and renovation, rather than grand improvements.

Tenants who voted “no” say they wanted more information before agreeing to the works, with sceptics fearing too many private homes for sale will be added into the deal and questioning what they see as a lack of clarity over the definition of “affordable housing” for the rest of the development.

Tenants association chairman Karl Lewkowicz said: “The scheme was promoted as a development that would make a real difference to helping those on Camden’s waiting list. Despite our repeated requests, the number of new homes created with social rents that are truly affordable to those in housing need has never been disclosed.”

“We want any scheme to be the result of real and transparent engagement with tenants as well as maximum benefit to those in greatest housing need in our borough. If the scheme is not a significant improvement for the existing and future community and benefit for Camden’s waiting list, tenants can and will vote against it.”

The estates – whose names reflect the history of a gin-making firm once based in the area – are behind a supermarket, which is due to be rebuilt in a scheme by Barratt Homes and Morrisons.

One Housing group say they surveyed the land and engaged with tenants before deciding that a complete rebuild was the most sensible solution. They have teamed up with developers Countryside and say the scheme will offer homes to all existing tenants, with better open spaces, as well as rooftop gardens and community facilities.

One Housing added that the new buildings would be energy efficient and design out anti-social behaviour. Existing tenants have also been offered new white goods, private gardens and balconies, along with a guarantee of a rent freeze.

But tenants say details are sketchy and proposed home sizes were a worry.

Mr Lewkowicz told the New Journal that due to Covid-19, it was more important than ever that architects did not aim to meet only minimum space requirements but that homes now need to be larger. They also feared building higher storeys would mean poorly ventilated lifts that could only safely carry have one person a time.

One Housing development director Mike Johnson said: “While we are disappointed, we respect their decision. We will now take time to engage with our residents to understand why they voted no. Following this, we will then decide whether to propose new regeneration plans.”

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