Serious concerns raised by residents over Lewisham Council demolition ballot
Residents living in an area of New Cross facing demolition by the council have voiced concerns over lack of consultation and its use of public funds.
The ballot on the 18 October will ask whether residents are in favour of Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the existing 87 homes and 17 businesses to make way for a new housing development in the Achilles Street area.
A key area of concern is the lack of choice in the ballot. In May 2016 the council announced to residents that it planned to redevelop the area. Since then no alternatives to demolition, such as refurbishment, have been put forward despite repeated requests and appeals.
Christian Codjoe, lifelong resident of the Achilles Street area said: “There is so much focus on ‘regeneration’ but no discussion whatsoever on how the area can be improved for the current residents and shop owners of this community.”
Residents have also pointed to Lewisham Council’s lack of spending on maintenance of homes as deeply troubling. Despite being structurally sound, neglect and poor upkeep of housing in the area have been used to justify demolition.
Christian added: “I’ve seen the progressive neglect of the area first-hand. Cleaning of stairwells has become infrequent and repairs take a very long time to be seen to once reported to the council.”
A council report and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests showed that:
- Between 2016 and 2018 Lewisham Council spent more than £300,000 on plans for the the new development, including architect fees and surveyors.
- However, between 2011 and 2017, just £239,000 was spent on repairs and maintenance of existing homes.This is in stark contrast to the £2.6 million generated in income through rent and service charges over the same period.
- More than £21,000 has been spent on the refurbishment of a tenant hall for the purpose of “resident engagement”. The hall had previously been closed for 14 years.
Martin Williams, affected resident and campaigner against the council’s plan, said:
“What’s clear for all to see is that Lewisham Council has been intent on demolition from the outset. It has spent over £300,000 on developing its plans for demolition and not a penny on any other option. Lewisham failed in its duty as a landlord to maintain and look after the homes in the area.”
Further FOI requests to Lewisham reveal:
- Almost £31,000 has been spent on the services of the PR and branding company Studio Raw. The company used the refurbished tenant hall from mid-June to speak to residents, along with council officers, about what they’d like to see in a landlord offer. Residents requests for alternative options that didn’t include demolition were ignored.
Martin added: “Rather than just listening to residents the council have spent more public funds pursuing demolition The outcome of this ballot will impact hugely on people’s lives, families and futures. The council have refused to listen to us. We need real alternatives.”
Notes to editors
- On 18 October residents will be asked to vote on the Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot. The ballot will be open until 11 November.
- The Achilles Street area under threat – is a low-density housing estate, which runs along either side of Achilles Street between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street. It also includes the flats, businesses and maisonettes along the New Cross Road between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (excluding the Venue and the old bank building).
- The Freedom of Information requests and Council paper cited can be found here: Council project spend (p16-17), Spend on maintenance of housing: £238,899 vs income generated from area 2011-17: £2,601,009 (FOI) , Refurbishment of tenants hall and money paid to Raw Studio (FOI)
- The Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign is a group of residents who are opposed to the development and have repeatedly called for alternative options to improve the area to be put forward. More info on the campaign here: website and twitter
- Christian Codjoe recently featured in an article about his experiences of living in the Achilles area and his opposition to demolition.
- For further information please call Jacquie Utley on 07906206166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Images are available upon request