On Tuesday evening the Central Hill Tenants and Residents Association was informed that the exhibition of proposals for the demolition of their estate announced by Lambeth Council for 20 February has been cancelled, and the decision to demolish their estate put back from April to June. This is the third time the date has been rescheduled.
When residents asked why, the only reason Lambeth gave is that they are ‘not ready’. Architects for Social Housing asked the TRA whether Lambeth Council are now reconsidering the infill and refurbishment options they have taken off the table, and were told ‘no’, they are still only looking at demolition options. So perhaps the fact that an article on Lambeth’s plans for Central Hill appeared in last Sunday’s Observer, or that our own photo blog on the estate received over a thousand views in one day, contributed to their sudden unreadiness.
Two weeks ago the Resident Engagement Panel voted for ASH to exhibit our proposals to residents alongside those by PRP Architects, the practice employed by Lambeth. Fiona Cliffe – who signs her letters with the diarrhetic job title of ‘Capital Program Manager, Estate Regeneration Team, Business Growth and Regeneration Delivery’ (note the absence of any reference to ‘housing’) – responded by saying that she would consider it.
In support of the resident’s vote, Central Hill’s Independent Resident Advisor argued that a precedent had been set by ASH’s previous work on the Knight’s Walk estate in Kennington. Now, having cancelled their own exhibition, Lambeth Council has invited ASH to present our proposals to them at a closed meeting to which only resident members of the Regeneration Steering Group will be invited.
ASH has no intention of conducting business with Lambeth Council behind closed doors. In the seven months we have been working with the Save Central Hill Community campaign we have never once been invited to any of the Council’s meetings with the Steering Group, nor been shown the designs by PRP Architects. And the Council has already stated in a letter that the business structure of Lambeth Homes, the Special Purpose Vehicle through which they intend to pursue their redevelopment plans, is not capable of funding the refurbishment of the estate.
Lambeth’s own surveyor has estimated the cost of refurbishment at £18.5 million, around £40,000 per home. In contrast, replacing the estate’s 456 existing homes has been estimated by one of Lambeth’s own architects at £225-240,000 per home. That’s around £120 million before a single new home has been built in a reportedly broke borough supposedly trying to reduce its housing waiting list.
If Lambeth Council has something to hide, Architects for Social Housing does not. As promised, we will be going ahead with the exhibition of our architectural proposals to save Central Hill estate from demolition and keep together the community it houses. Since Lambeth has prohibited residents from using their own estate community hall, the vicar of Christ Church has generously offered up the local church hall for the use of the Central Hill community. The exhibition will still be held on Saturday, 20 February, but at the new time of 2-5pm. The address is 1 Highland Road, Gipsy Hill, London SE19 1DP.
ASH invites all the residents of Central Hill estate to come and see our designs, talk to us about what we are proposing, and ask us questions about the threat to their homes and what we can do to save them. If Lambeth Councillors wish to see our proposals, they too are welcome – but at a public event open to all. We also extend our welcome to residents of other estates threatened by Lambeth Council’s aggressive and socially cleansing regeneration plans, and to any other estates across London facing demolition and eviction.
The future of Central Hill estate lies in the hands of its residents, not in those of Lambeth Council. Please join us.