Updated Fact Sheet, March 2019

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign

FACT SHEET

Lewisham Council is proposing to redevelop the Achilles Street area, which runs along either side of Achilles Street between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street; and includes the flats, businesses and community organisations on the east side of Clifton Rise and the flats, maisonettes and businesses along the New Cross Road between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (excluding the Venue and the bank). In redeveloping the area Lewisham plans to demolish every home, business and community organisation. Lewisham claims that the redevelopment will address the shortage of council housing in the borough but these are the facts:

 Fact 1 – Lewisham Council wants to demolish decent council homes

The 87 homes in the Achilles Street area are all structurally sound and meet the Council’s ‘Decent Homes’ standard. So why does Lewisham want to demolish them when there is a chronic shortage of council housing in the borough?

Fact 2 – Lewisham isn’t interested in anything other than demolition

At the four token ‘consultation’ events Lewisham have held about the redevelopment, the only option presented to residents, businesses and the local community has been demolition and the building of a high rise, high density housing complex. This is a top-down plan that is being imposed on residents, businesses and the local community by the Council. It is now policy that to receive funds from the Mayor and Greater London Authority that residents on estates undergoing ‘regeneration’ are balloted. Lewisham Council are going to exclude many in our community from the right to vote in a ballot. Private tenants, businesses and community groups, whose homes and livelihoods are under threat of demolition, will have no say in what happens to their local community. Lewisham Council also seems to know what the result of the ballot is going to be, as they are already planning for and committing resources to demolition. At a behind closed doors meeting on 12th December 2018 the Council agreed a budget to begin buying back leasehold and freehold properties in the Achilles Street area. This is before any ballot for the Achilles Street area has even been announced let alone taken place!

Fact 3 – Lewisham won’t consider the option of infill and refurbishment

Whilst Lewisham has spent a lot of time and money working up its plans to demolish the Achilles Street area it hasn’t spent a penny on developing any other options. Infill, refurbishment and landscaping is widely accepted to be a lot less expensive and a more environmentally and socially friendly way to redevelop an area. However, Lewisham isn’t prepared to put infill and refurbishment forward as an option and give residents, businesses and the local community a real choice in how best to improve the area.

Fact 4 – Lewisham Council has failed in its duties as a landlord and managed the decline of the Achilles Street area

Lewisham has failed in its responsibilities as a landlord to maintain and upkeep the buildings (homes and businesses) in the Achilles Street area. When buildings become run down because a landlord has neglected them it is called ‘managed decline’; and this is what Lewisham has done to the Achilles Street area. The Council is now using its own failings as a landlord as an excuse to demolish the decent and structurally sound homes and businesses in the area.

Fact 5 The homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area generate a large amount of income for Lewisham Council

A recent Freedom of Information request by the Campaign revealed that over the past 6 years (2011 – 2017) the rental and service charge income from the homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area was a total of £2,601,009. Over the same 6 year period Lewisham’s total spend on repairs and maintenance for the homes and businesses was only £238,899. This means that for the last 6 years the homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area have generated a total profit of £2,362,110 for the Council. Where has all this money gone? And given these profits, why hasn’t Lewisham invested more in the maintenance and upkeep of the Achilles Street area, instead of managing its decline?

Fact 6 – Redeveloping the Achilles Street area will not address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

To redevelop the area Lewisham will have to go into partnership with a private property developer. This means the vast majority of the new homes (currently estimated to be between 400 and 450) will be private, for sale and rent at market rates. Private property developers always use ‘viability assessments’ to reduce the percentage of social/‘affordable’ housing in any new development; and this has consistently happened in projects across London. The Lewisham Gateway project, for example, had a target of 20 percent ‘affordable’ housing and through viability assessments property developers managed to get away with building no ‘affordable’ housing at all. This was in spite of the fact that the property developers for Lewisham Gateway were given the land for nothing by the Council and on top of this they received £22 million of public funding (£20 million from the Homes & Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority and £2 million from Lewisham Council). More recently at Besson Street in New Cross Gate, Lewisham Council have gone into joint a venture with Grainger plc one of the biggest private landlord companies in the country. In this new development NONE of the homes will be for social rent, 65% of the homes will be for private rent and the other 35% will be at London living rent (which most people can’t afford – see Fact 7). Besson Street was Council land where 69 council homes once stood, now it is owned by a private property developer and has no council housing. This has been Lewisham’s approach to ‘regeneration’, so their plans to redevelop the Achilles Street area could ultimately end up reducing the number of council homes in the borough.

Fact 7 – Lewisham’s idea of ‘affordable’ housing isn’t affordable

Lewisham Council defines ‘affordable’ housing as the London Living Rent, which is linked to the median wage for an area and assumes that two earners occupy a flat, each paying 35 per cent of their net income on rent. For a two bedroom flat in the New Cross ward the London Living Rent would be £1023 per month. Lewisham also classify the London Affordable Rent as ‘social’ rent. London Affordable Rent is around 63% higher than existing council rents in Lewisham; and tenants on London Affordable Rent pay significantly higher service charges than council tenants.

Fact 8 – Lewisham Council doesn’t care about residents, businesses and local communities

The case of Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House shows exactly what Lewisham Council thinks of residents and local communities. Recently, as part of their plans to gentrify Deptford and in spite of widespread opposition from residents and the local community, the Council destroyed Old Tidemill Garden – an award winning community garden and one of the few green spaces left in Deptford. Lewisham also plans to do the same to Reginald House (a block of 16 structurally sound council flats) where 80% of the residents have already informed the Council and the GLA that they want their homes refurbished rather than destroyed. This example illustrates how Lewisham have been treating residents and local communities across the borough for over a decade now; in places like New Cross, Deptford, Lewisham and Catford to name but a few. Over the years the Council has been happy to sell off and transfer land to private property developers (land, which belongs to the people of Lewisham). These private property developers have made big profits by building thousands of homes; and selling them at prices the vast majority of Lewisham residents can’t afford. This is what Lewisham wants to do to the Achilles Street area.

 

The Council’s plan to destroy homes, livelihoods and the local community in the Achilles Street area will do nothing to address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign  FACT SHEET

Notes and Sources

Fact 1 – Lewisham Council wants to demolish decent council homes

  • Letter to Residents dated 4 July 2016
  • Email from Lewisham dated 26 May 2017

Fact 2 – Lewisham isn’t interested in anything other than demolishing the Achilles Street area

Fact 3 – Lewisham won’t consider the option of infill and refurbishment

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/04/is-demolition-ever-the-best-way-to-regenerate

Fact 4 – Lewisham Council has failed in its duties as a landlord and managed the decline of the Achilles Street area

Fact 5 – The homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area generate a large amount of income for Lewisham Council

Fact 6 – Redeveloping the Achilles Street area will not address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

Fact 7 – Lewisham’s idea of ‘affordable’ housing isn’t affordable

Fact 8 – Lewisham Council doesn’t care about residents, businesses and local communities

and https://en-gb.facebook.com/savetidemill/

  • See also Corporate Watch’s

‘TIDEMILL: FACTSHEET ON THE BATTLE FOR DEPTFORD’ available at: https://corporatewatch.org/tidemill-development-factsheet-on-the-battle-for-deptford/

‘TIDEMILL: THE LEWISHAM COUNCILLORS PUSHING DEMOLITION AND GENTRIFICATION’ available at:

https://corporatewatch.org/tidemill-the-lewisham-councillors-pushing-gentrification-and-demolition/

  • For Lewisham Gateway see Fact 6 above
  • For the Excalibur Estate, Catford see, ‘This is my home, my little castle’, The Guardian, 28 December 2012, available at:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/dec/28/prefab-houses-last-estate-britain

‘Largest postwar prefab estate to be demolished’, The Guardian, 2 January 2011, available at:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jan/02/postwar-prefab-houses-demolition-london

Download pdf factsheet Factsheet March 2019

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