FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10/10/19 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 

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

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“I want to live in this flat for the rest of my life”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog called Deptford is Changing   about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

“I want to live in this flat for the rest of my life”

 

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In September 2019 I met Christian, a young man in his mid-twenties who works as a project manager for a tech start-up. He lives in the building referred to as 363, which contains maisonettes above the shops on New Cross Parade on New Cross Road. The maisonettes and the shops are under threat of demolition as part of the Achilles Street development. From Christian’s front door you have a fantastic view into Fordham Park and over to the Pepys Estate and other high-rises scattered across Deptford. You also see the green shrubbery that surrounds the Achilles Street buildings. The approaching sunset over the buildings as we approach the door adds another dimension to the view. The first thing I notice is space – green space, space for play, for cars, space to breathe. We go onto the spacious balcony on the other side of the building, overlooking New Cross Road. This is Christian’s favourite place in his home and together with his dad we stand there for a bit and watch the world go by. It’s an interesting new perspective of New Cross for me. Being raised above the usual eye level, I suddenly see writing on top of buildings I have never seen before and I notice the sense of space you get from having the buildings set back from one of the busiest roads in south-east London. I ask them if they experience noise issues being so close to a major artery, but they say that the width of the parade does not allow the noise to come through good windows much. They can’t imagine what it would be like though if the building went right up to the road – like they will if redevelopment takes place.

The thought of having their family home demolished is very upsetting for Christian and his family. “This is our home, where our memories are kept. This is where some of our greatest memories happened, where our community is and where we feel a strong sense of belonging. I want to live in this home for the rest of my life! Having that taken away from us means we have to start building a life from scratch again because we won’t be able to afford a new place in the area”, Christian explains.

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Christian gets his photo album out and together we look through it. It contains mostly family photographs taken in this flat, particularly in the lounge. Some features like the fireplace, the wooden beams and a lamp are still the same. Other things like the photograph of Christian’s late grandmother, who passed away last year, are newer additions. There are photographs of birthday parties and other gatherings, school photographs and family portraits (see below). Somewhere in the flat there is also a VHS of Curtis’ first birthday party.

christian-on-his-third-birthday-with-his-auntie-and-brother-in-the-background

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Christian’s parents came to South-East London from Ghana at different times and didn’t meet until they were both living here in the 1980s. After they’d known each other for a few years, they moved into a flat in Hawke Tower on the Woodpecker Estate in Deptford in 1989. When the mum got pregnant with Christian, they were given this flat in the 363 building in 1993 – the year Christian was born. His brother Curtis was born a year after. When being told about the flat, the councillor at the time said: ‘You are lucky, your flat is in New Cross’ but Christian’s parents didn’t actually know where New Cross was. Now, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. Gradually, the family made the flat their home – they decorated it, had birthday and family parties. One of Christian’s favourite memories is sitting on the floor in front of the hot fireplace in winter, wrapped in a blanket and watching TV.

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Christian and Curtis first went to St Michael’s Nursery on the Woodpecker Estate before they went to Childeric Nursery just around the corner from 363. The two of them were often dressed in matching outfits. “Mum had always wanted twins and since me and Curtis are only one year apart, we practically were twins. I remember walking through Fordham Park to get to nursery. I also learnt to ride a bike in Fordham Park and me and my brother used to cycle around the park. We always stayed in the area. We used the playground on Achilles Street, where we played with local kids from Azalea and Fenton House. The other kids often used to come to our flat”, Christian tells me. The boys then went to St Joseph’s Primary School on Deptford High Street before going to St Michaels Catholic College in Bermondsey. They often played football together on the parade in front of the block and they’ve had many parties and BBQs on the balcony.

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There are other close connections located within the area. Ever since they arrived, the family have been going to the Catholic Church of Our Lady of The Assumption on Deptford High Street. “The boys were baptised there, had communion there and confirmation. Now I’m waiting for holy matrimony”, Christian’s dad laughs. Christian also loves Deptford flea market. Funnily, he didn’t like it too much when he was younger. “Mum always dragged us down to the market to buy second-hand clothes. We were embarrassed because we went to St Joseph’s. Now I love the market, I always get bargains and I know everyone there. Funny how perceptions change but when you’re a kid you don’t always understand things”, Christian says.

After about 8 years living there, his parents managed to buy the flat off the council. It took a lot of hard work. Christian’s mum, for example, worked 2 jobs and studied at the same time. Christian’s dad started studying later. The parents had a plan: to work hard and build up a secure future for their two sons. “In a city like London it is especially important to have a security blanket that protects you from a life of uncertainty and instability”, Christian says.

Having the dream of homeownership fulfilled and the ‘assurance’ of providing their children with a ‘stable and secure’ home, Christian’s parents were slowly preparing to move back to Ghana. Then news broke that the council was planning to demolish 363 along with the shops and the four blocks on Achilles Street. Since then, and particularly with not knowing what is going to happening, their lives have been put on hold. The move back to Ghana has been put off until no-one knows when, and the family feel that the rug is being pulled from beneath their feet. “We’re living in limbo. It is very destructive and hurtful. We’ve worked so hard to have security and provide opportunities for our children and this is now being taken away. Those making the decisions don’t understand what they are doing to us and our neighbours, who have been here so long as well”, Christian’s dad says.

Losing this home would mean losing a kind of structure for Christian: a secure home, a sense of belonging, and the connection to the building through all the memories that have been shared in it. “Living in a flat in a new-build won’t be the same. They lack character, they don’t have the same amount of space and it would be an empty shell. We would have no connection to it, no family memories. It would be a house instead of a home.” But Christian’s family probably won’t be able to afford a new build in the area anyway (except shared ownership which does not provide the same security as full ownership). Although it seems they are being offered the current value of their home plus 10%, it still won’t be enough to buy a 2-bedroom flat in a new development or in the area. In fact, the way things are going, it won’t buy them anything in Zone 1 or 2.

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This isn’t just about losing a safe and secure home, it is also a story about belonging to a place where one grew up and where all one’s memories are stored. Both Christian and Curtis love living in New Cross, with Christian describing his life in the area as “wholesome”. “It’s been home since I was born, it’s where my family are, and my close friends are here on the Woodpecker, in New Cross, Deptford and Greenwich. It’s a great community, it has a very diverse population, good transport links to other areas, and a great mixture of busyness and quietness. It has everything from Jamaican, Indian, Turkish, African food to Pizza for a good price, my dad gets his hair cut in Unique Hair Technique across the road (I used to go there too but now I go to a hairdresser in Deptford) and I love listening to Motown Music on the balcony and people watching. It’s a great place!”

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Ever since they have found out about the potential loss of their much-loved home, their lives have been full of uncertainty. Christian says that, at first, he didn’t buy into the idea of ‘social cleansing’ and he thought that the people employed by the council to talk to residents in the newly opened community space at Fenton House really had the community of Achilles Street area at heart. However, having seen what is happening in New Cross and Deptford and noticing how the demographic is changing, and experiencing the threat of displacement himself, he does believe it is social cleansing. “You just need to go to Deptford flea market on a Saturday and then cross over to Deptford Market Yard. You can see a barrier there.” To Christian it feels like the heart of New Cross will be ripped out if the redevelopment plans go ahead.

I ask Christian and his dad whether they’ve made plans in case their home will be demolished. They haven’t. They can’t bear thinking about it; it’s too upsetting. They keep hoping that their home won’t be demolished and that they can finally follow up on their original plans.

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Photos and Text by Anita Strasser and CHRISTIAN IN ST JOSEPH’S PRIMARY SCHOOL. PHOTO: STANLEY BAKER STUDIOS LTD, WITH THE KIND PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE IT HERE

 

We need proper Scrutiny

Last week on Wednesday 18 September Mayor and Cabinet approved the Landlord offer with no choices for residents, vague and empty promises and no detailed information. The decision needs to be called in and put to scrutiny to make sure all residents are given transparent detail and information they need to make an informed choice – below are some of our concerns. Thank you so much to everyone who sent emails last week at such short notice it really does make a difference- please help us to keep up the pressure by emailing the scrutiny committee by Friday 27 September ( they are meeting on Monday 30 September) please feel free to use and adapt the below. Scrutiny committee email addresses at end of the post

Dear Scrutiny Committee Member

We are writing to you to ask you to scrutinise the ‘Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot’ approved by the Mayor and Cabinet on Wednesday 18 September, 2019, Agenda Item 4. The reason for this request is that the decision was ‘rushed’ through and based on a report and appendices, which contained limited and at times misleading information (further details are provided below). This is an important decision which will have a huge and lasting impact on the lives of residents and the wider community in the Achilles Street area. Given the gravity of this decision and its potential consequences it requires diligent, independent and transparent scrutiny.

Reasons to call-in the decision:

  • The Report on which the decision was based was late going up on the Council’s website and didn’t give 5 clear days for public scrutiny. This is in breach of the Council’s own procedures, which are informed by the Local Government Act 1972. Whilst the Act does allow for some matters to be treated with ‘urgency’, thereby requiring less time for public scrutiny, there have to be ‘special circumstances requiring it to be treated as a matter of urgency’. No reasons were given at Mayor and Cabinet on 18 September as to why this decision was being treated as a ‘matter of urgency’ nor was there any indication as to the ‘special circumstances’ that allowed it to be treated as such. Given the importance and potential consequences of the decision for residents and the local community, more time should have been allowed for the public to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns.

 

  • Further to the point above, residents were informed that the Mayor and Cabinet meeting was taking place via a leaflet drop, at the same time the Report went up on the Council’s website. The leaflets were in English giving residents whose first language isn’t English no time to get the information translated. Other key stakeholders (such as small independent businesses, freeholders and residents in freehold property) whose homes and businesses stand to be demolished were given no information about the meeting at all; and therefore were denied the opportunity to raise any objections and concerns they may have had about the proposals for the area and about being excluded from the forthcoming ballot. Again, given the importance of the decision for residents and the members of the local community, more time should have been given to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns. 

 

  • The Report and Offer (Appendix A) contains no detailed information about the proposed ‘redevelopment’ but rather a series of vague aspirations and empty promises. For example, the boundaries to the ‘redevelopment’ have recently been changed, which means that there is approximately 25% less land to build on. As the Council is still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space it means that housing density is going to increase significantly. No new plans have been put forward to reflect these changes, which means that residents will have no idea of what the ‘redevelopment’ is going to look like. So residents are being asked to vote on something without being given crucial information to base their decision on. Similarly, the Report and Offer to residents doesn’t give any information about the impact of the ‘redevelopment’ on the social infrastructure, schools, GPs, congestion etc. Nor does it give any information about the environmental impact of demolition and the 8 years plus of planned building works. The Council is also refusing to open up financial information (costs, viability modelling etc.) about the ‘redevelopment’  to public scrutiny. How public funds are being spent and on what is an important aspect of political accountability and transparency. For residents to make an informed choice about the future of their homes, their neighbour’s homes and the homes and livelihoods of others in the local community there should be comprehensive, detailed and transparent information. 

 

  • Not only is there a severe lack of information, the Offer also contains no real choices for residents about what happens to their area, just ‘demolition’ or ‘nothing’. For almost 4 years now residents have been asking for a range of options to be considered and presented in terms of improving the area, for example infill or refurbishment. Over this period there have been 4 ‘consultations’ where the only option being presented to residents was demolition. There was a tokenistic attempt to claim that infill had been considered by belatedly referring to a small scale study that had been undertaken long before the Council’s first ‘consultation’! Therefore it is disingenuous of the Council to claim, as it does in the background section of the Report, that the proposals to date have been developed with significant input from residents and the local community. There has been no independent consultation and the only thing the Council has been prepared to ‘discuss’ for almost 4 years now is the demolition of the area. In terms of resources the Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on working up plans to demolish the area and not a penny has been spent on developing any type of alternative proposals with residents. The offer should give residents genuine choices about what happens to their homes and local community, at present it doesn’t.

 

  • The Council’s failure to listen to residents and to develop a number of genuine choices with the residents about what happens to their homes and local community continued over this summer. The tenants hall in Fenton House, which had previously been closed for 14 years, was refurbished has been turned into the ‘Fenton Community Space’. This is where the Council has been undertaking what it refers to misleadingly in the Report as ‘resident engagement’. The Council employed Studio Raw a public relations, branding and place making company; and they along with council officers have been holding weekly sessions since mid June to supposedly gather information about what residents would like to see in the Offer. Again, residents have asked for alternative options to be developed so that there are real choices about what happens to their area in the offer; and again they have been ignored. So these weekly sessions, to all intents and purposes, have been a vehicle for promoting the Council’s plans for demolition. The Council has spent a lot of money (the exact amount is currently subject of a Freedom of Information request) on refurbishing a disused tenants hall and employing a public relations / branding/ placemaking company in order to pursue their aim of demolishing the area; and not a penny on providing a genuine choice for the residents in the offer.

 

  • There is a distinct lack of clarity in the Report and Offer about the number of council homes the ‘redevelopment’ will provide. Council homes, as they are commonly understood, are homes owned and controlled by a council and let out at a rent set by a formula devised by central government i.e. council rent, which is the most affordable type of social rent. The Offer only commits the Council to re-provide homes to the 49 council tenants living in the area at the same level of rent they are currently paying. This means that only approximately 10% of homes in the proposed ‘redevelopment’ will be let out at the most affordable level of social rent; and these homes will only replace the ones that the Council intends to demolish. Council homes at council rent is the most affordable type of social housing and the type of housing most needed in Lewisham and London more generally. The offer and the proposal on which it is based will do nothing to increase the number of households paying most affordable levels of social rent in Lewisham.

 

  • Similarly, there is a distinct lack of clarity about what is being offered to temporary council tenants in the Achilles Street area. This is partly due to repeated or unfinished sentences in this section of the Offer document but also partly due to the terminology being used. According to the Offer document temporary council tenants will be offered ‘a new council owned home for social rent’, where it seems that the term ‘social rent’ refers to London Affordable Rent. At present London Affordable Rent is 77% – 50% higher than Lewisham average council rent (depending on the size of the dwelling). This means that temporary tenants currently living in the Achilles Street area will be re-housed on London Affordable Rent; and will be paying £55 – £65 more per week more than their secure tenant counterparts, who will be re-housed at their current level of rent (Lewisham council rents). The Council’s proposal to differentiate its tenants (secure/temporary) in this way and then use it as a basis to treat them unequally is a matter of serious concern and one that requires scrutiny.

 

  • The Report and Offer tends to avoid the fact that 50% of the homes in the proposed ‘redevelopment’ will be private (for rent or sale), the most expensive type of housing. So in terms of housing provision by far the largest part of it is going to be private; and the people who stand to benefit most from the proposed ‘redevelopment’ are those who can afford to buy property on London’s private housing market –  people in the highest income bracket, the richest 10% of people in the country – these will be the people who first and foremost stand to benefit from the proposal to ‘redevelop’ the Achilles Street area. Why public funds and resources are being committed to increase the provision of private housing, the most expensive type of housing, is highly questionable; and in terms of the proposals for the Achilles Street area the figures speak for themselves:

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  • The Offer and proposed ballot raises some serious ethical concerns, which the Council haven’t even considered. A lot of people in the community who will be directly affected by the result of the ballot will not have the right to vote. This includes temporary council tenants who haven’t been on the housing waiting list for a year, private tenants and small independent businesses, all of whom could have their homes demolished and their livelihoods destroyed without having had any say in the decision. Another problematic ethical scenario would be if one of the blocks of flats in the Achilles Street area voted unanimously against the offer to save their homes from demolition, yet the result of the overall ballot went against them. Why should they be forced to have their homes demolished because of decisions taken by people who don’t even live in their block? These types of questions raise serious ethical concerns that to date have received no consideration and that deserve to be scrutinised.

 

 

We hope you consider the above reasons and call this rushed and ill-thought through decision in for scrutiny.

 

Yours faithfully,

Sources:

  • Lewisham Average Council Rent – Lewisham Homes Area Panel, Housing Revenue Account (HRA) – Rent Setting Report, 31 January 2019, Appendix 3: Leasehold and Tenants Charges 2019/20 Lewisham Homes, available at:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s62239/05%20Rent%20Rise%20Report%202019-20%20-%20310119.pdf

 

  • London Affordable Rent – Homes for Londoners: Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21, London Affordable Rent – weekly rent benchmarks, available at: 

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homes-londoners-affordable-homes-programme-2016-21

     

 

Appendix A   Appendix A – Achilles Street Landlord Offer

Appendix B  Appendix B – EAA Achilles Street Estate Resident Ballot

 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel

Councillor Bill Brown cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Sakina Sheikh Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Peter Bernards cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Juliet Campbell Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Patrick Codd Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Liam Curran cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Jim Mallory cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Joan Millbank cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor John Muldoon cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Luke Sorba cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel email list for copying and pasting 

cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

 

 

‘Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot’

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign

Lewisham Council are going to Mayor and Cabinet this Wednesday 18 September to get approval for the Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot. This is the offer that the Council is going to make to residents in their ballot about whether or not the Achilles Street area should be demolished. Details of the Mayor and Cabinet meeting and a link to the report are as follows:

Date: Wednesday 18 September

Place: Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Civic Suite

Lewisham Town Hall, Catford 

Time: Starts at 6.30pm ( come along and show the council they have to be accountable)

The Achilles Street Landlord Offer is item No 4 on the Agenda and the report and its two appendices can be found at: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=139&MId=5641

We have asked for permission to respond at the Mayor and Cabinet meeting and are currently waiting to see if that permission has been granted.  

This is an important decision which will have a massive impact on the lives of residents and the wider community. You can raise any objections and concerns you have by emailing or writing to the Mayor and Cabinet and members of the Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel – the committee which monitors Council decisions – contact details can be found at the end of the document.

Below are some objections and concerns that the Campaign has, so please feel free to use these or adapt accordingly: 

Word Doc for Copy and pasting below

 

  • The report was two days late going up on Lewisham’s website, which breaches the Council’s own procedures to allow adequate time for public scrutiny. Given the importance and potential consequences of the decision on residents and the local community, more time should be allowed for the public to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns.

 

  • Residents shouldn’t be expected to vote on an offer that has no detailed information. At the moment the offer consists of vague aspirations and empty promises. The boundaries to the ‘redevelopment’ have recently been changed, which means that there is approximately 25% less land to build on. As Lewisham are still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space it means that housing density is going to increase significantly. No new plans have been put forward to reflect these changes, which means that residents will have no idea of what the ‘redevelopment’ is going to look like. So residents are being asked to vote on something without being given crucial information to base their decision on.

 

  • The report and offer to residents also doesn’t give any information about the impact of the ‘redevelopment’ on the social infrastructure, schools, GPs, congestion etc. Nor does it give any information about the environmental impact of demolition and the 8 years plus years of building works.

 

  • The offer contains no real choices for residents about what happens to their area just ‘demolition’ or ‘nothing’. For almost 4 years now residents have been asking for a range of options to be considered in terms of improving the area. Whilst the Council has been happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on working up their plans for demolition not a penny has been spent on developing alternative proposals with residents, for example infill or refurbishment. The offer should give residents genuine choices about what happens to their homes and local community.

 

  • The offer is misleading about the number of council homes the ‘redevelopment’ will provide, the supposed reason it was proposed in the first place. There are currently 49 council tenants in the Achilles Street area; and the offer states that long term council tenants will continue to pay the same level of rent i.e. council rents. This means there will be no gain in council housing (people paying council rents) if the ‘redevelopment’ goes ahead. Council homes at council rent is the most affordable type of social housing and the type of housing most needed in Lewisham. The offer and the proposal on which it is based will do nothing to increase the number of council homes in Lewisham.

 

  • The offer is also misleading about the provision of ‘social‘ housing in the ‘redevelopment’. It is estimated that only 100 out of the 450 new homes being built will be ‘social‘ housing (most of the new homes being built will be private – for sale or rent). However these 100 new so called ‘social’ homes will be at London Affordable Rent – which is 70% – 45% higher than council rent depending on the size of the home. In other words the people on London Affordable Rent will be paying £50-£60 more a week than those on council rent. Lewisham Council should not be accepting London Affordable Rent as a ‘social’ rent; and should be building new homes to be let at council rent levels.

 

  • The offer does not give a lot of people in the community who are directly affected by the ‘redevelopment’ the right to vote. This includes temporary council tenants who haven’t been on the housing waiting list for a year, private tenants and the small independent businesses who stand to lose their homes and livelihoods. 

 You can email any objections or concerns you have to:

Word doc for copy and pasting includes email addresses of Councillors

Mayor  

Damien Egan damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk

Cabinet 

Councillor Chris Best  cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Chris Barnham  cllr_chris.barnham@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Paul Bell cllr_paul.bell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Kevin Bonavia cllr_kevin.bonavia@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Andre Bourne cllr_andre.bourne@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joe Dromey cllr_joe.dromey@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Brenda Dacres cllr_brenda.dacres@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Sophie McGeevor Cllr_Sophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Amanda De Ryk cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joani Reid cllr_joani.reid@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Jonathan Slater cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

Mayor and Cabinet email list for copying and pasting

 

damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_chris.barnham@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_paul.bell@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_kevin.bonavia@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_andre.bourne@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joe.dromey@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_brenda.dacres@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Sophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joani.reid@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel

Councillor Bill Brown cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Sakina Sheikh Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Peter Bernards cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Juliet Campbell Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Patrick Codd Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Liam Curran cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Jim Mallory cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joan Millbank cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor John Muldoon cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Luke Sorba cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel email list for copying and pasting 

cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

Or you can write to any of the councilors with any objections or concerns you have:

Postal Address: Lewisham Town, Catford Road, London SE6 4RU

 

 

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign Update

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign Update

If anyone is under the illusion that Lewisham Council care about the Achilles Street area and the people who live and work there – all of the residents, shops, cafes, restaurants, small independent businesses and community groups who are under the threat of demolition – don’t be fooled by the tea, cake and cosy designs in the newly refurbished tenants hall and a flurry of long standing repairs getting a bit of attention. This is just a tactic to get us to vote for the demolition of our homes and our neighbour’s homes.

Changing the Boundaries – Clifton Rise & Fordham Park

Clifton Rise – On Wednesday 31 July, Clifton Rise were informed by Lewisham Council that they were no longer included in the Achilles Street area redevelopment plans. Having put the people on the East side of Clifton Rise through three and a half years of worry about their futures – uncertainty about their livelihoods, employees, place of worship – Lewisham Council couldn’t even be bothered to address the letters individually nor acknowledge, let alone apologise for, the stress and anxiety they have caused to peoples’ lives.

Letter sent to Clifton rise

Fordham Park – On the 6th July the Achilles Campaign invited local musician and artist David Aylward to highlight the boundary of the Achilles Street area under threat of demolition. The campaign wanted to highlight the scale of the ‘redevelopment’ and that a big chunk of Fordham Park would be lost. Three weeks later Lewisham announced that they have now changed the boundary to their plans and are no longer including the park in their ‘redevelopment’ proposals.

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New Red line Boundary 

 

What’s the New Plan?

Well the short answer is that there isn’t one! Whilst it’s good to hear that the park has been cut out of the Council’s plans (Given Lewisham’s long track record of destroying green spaces in the North of the Borough) and that uncertainty over peoples’ futures on Clifton Rise has been removed for the moment. The changes to the boundary of the ‘redevelopment’ means only one thing, the Council will be trying to cram more and more housing into less and less space. The boundary changes mean that Lewisham will have approximately a third less land to build on and they’re still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space.

Fenton House Tenants Hall and Studio Raw PR Company

As you will have probably noticed the tenants hall in Fenton House, which Lewisham have left empty and neglected for fourteen years, has been brought back in to use to promote the Council’s plan for demolition. It’s interesting to see that Lewisham can find the money to refurbish and open up the tenants hall, not as a facility for tenants and residents nor as a home for people on the Council’s housing waiting list, but as a headquarters to persuade residents to vote for the demolition of their own homes. Lewisham have also been able to find the money to employ a PR company called Studio Raw to help them achieve their aim of demolition. Studio Raw is a Deptford based PR, branding and place making company who, amongst other things, work for property developers paving the way for gentrification. Studio Raw’s past clients include Lendlease who are the developers who demolished the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle; and Cathedral who have built housing in Deptford High Street with no homes for social rent.

Demolition HQ

Studio Raw, along with Council officers, have been in the tenants hall in Fenton House every Wednesday since mid June, promoting Lewisham’s plan for demolition. They have been gathering information from residents, which will be used to shape the ‘offer’ the Council makes in the ballot this autumn. So, don’t be fooled by the tea, cakes and cosy chats; Studio Raw are employed by the Council and there to do the Council’s bidding, which is to maximise their chances of getting people to vote for demolition. Also, don’t be fooled by the misinformation being presented in the tenants’ hall. An example of this is the timeline they have written on the wall, which states that 81% of residents are supportive of the Council’s proposals, these figures are not true. The facts are that Lewisham knocked on the doors of all 87 residents, with a team of door knockers over two days, 28 residents opened their doors and responded to  some vague questions about the ‘redevelopment proposals’. From this exercise Lewisham managed to get their statistic that ‘81% of residents are supportive of the Council’s proposals’. This is deliberately misleading and raises the question of trust, in a Council and a PR company employed on their behalf, who seem desperate to promote the demolition of our homes and local community.

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Lewisham council and Studio Raw deliberately misleading on public platforms.

Where Do Things Stand Now?

As things stand residents are going to be asked to vote on the demolition of theirs and their neighbour’s homes and the local small businesses, which are going to be replaced by a development that nobody knows what it’s going to look like; and based on ‘offers’ that appear to have no legal guarantees. This is all being run by a Council who has been happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on designing and promoting the demolition of our homes and the destruction of our local community; and not a penny on giving residents and the local community a real choice or say in what happens to their homes and local area. Many people directly affected by the proposals are getting denied the right to a vote by Lewisham Council.

New Campaign Video

 

Most Saturdays we will be on the stall on New Cross Road 11.30 am-1.30pm come by and say hello!

“People here don’t want demolition”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/called Depford is changing about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here .

“People here don’t want demolition”

Benson Odidi is the proprietor of Divine Cargo on 355 New Cross Road. Divine Cargo is a shipping company that provides a full range of air, sea and road freight services. If you need a parcel over 23 kg shipping anywhere in the world, Divine Cargo is the place to go, and if you need to have a parcel shipped here, Divine Cargo can also be a collection point. On the premises, there are also computers, copy machines and facilities for scanning, project binding and using the Internet. And finally, there is also an array of colour samples of African textiles which can be ordered in bulk and shipped anywhere in the world.

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I am speaking to Bola, Benson’s wife, who in his absence tells me about their business, the area and the fact that their shop is under threat of demolition. The first thing Bola tells me is the kind of relationships that have formed over the years through the shop, and that this is not just a shop but plays a role in the community as well. She tells me about an elderly gentleman who came in asking for help after suffering an attack on a night bus. “This elderly gentleman, who used to live upstairs, came in asking for help with filling in an insurance form to give to the police because he had been attacked by a group of youths on the night bus. He’d been in before a few times using the computer or asking for help with other paperwork and as I’ve always assisted him, he felt he could come in here asking for help. A few weeks later he died because the punch to his head did some damage. And because I helped him fill in the form, I was able to tell his family what happened. Without this they would not know the reason for this death.”

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When I ask Bola about the demolition plans it becomes clear again, as with the other businesses, that it would mean the end of their business venture. “All the rates will go up – for phone lines, broadband, water and rent. We won’t be able to exist with those rates. We would become jobless. It would also deprive our customers of our services.”

Bola understands that redevelopment has to happen, but that this should happen in areas where there is space or where buildings are in a really bad state. According to her, this does not apply here: “The buildings here are fine, they are not in need of demolition. They need maintenance and they should have been maintained better to stop demolition but since we’ve been here no repair work has ever been done. And there is no space here already. The traffic is always congested and with more people there will be even more traffic. People here don’t want demolition; it’s not the right decision and it will affect a lot of people. The parade is already lively as it is – we are like a family here and demolition will separate many people who have built up lasting friendships. For example, there is an elderly man living upstairs who comes down to the parade every morning. As we are the first shop to open, we often sit down and have a chat. Or sometimes people just come in asking for help with letters to the council.”

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When I ask Bola what she would like to say to the council she replies with: “Listen to the people, take their experience into consideration. Revisit the decision to demolish – it’s ok the way the area is, it just needs decorating.”

What strikes me most though is what Bola says afterwards. “Children love the parade, they come here every day after school and hang out here – it’s such a nice atmosphere. And they know us and they come in to use the toilet. There is no public toilet in New Cross, the next one is in Deptford Lounge. And it’s not just children that use our toilet, other people too. Some people are diabetic or have other health conditions where they might suddenly need to go urgently, and we let them. I know we as a business don’t have to but we need to look after the less privileged people – there are no more places for them to go and not having a toilet to go to might mean not going out for them. Today it’s all about money, it’s all for the posh and those with money. I know we need business but it doesn’t mean we can’t look after the less privileged.”

In the end, Bola tells me that she has experience working with people with Autism and knows about issues of access for less privileged people and how they are treated at times. And when I listen to her passionate account about the lack of public toilets, the wider implications of this influx of private money and the persistent cutbacks of public facilities become even more apparent, restricting access and participation even further for the less privileged.

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

 

“We tenants, we are not going to win”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/ called Depford is changing is changing about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

“We tenants, we are not going to win”

Bernard is a pensioner who lives on the 2nd floor in Austin House on Achilles Street, which is up for demolition. Until his retirement in September 2017, Bernard was a Drugs and Alcohol Worker, helping young drug users find a way back into normal life. It was not something he had planned; he had done a moulding apprenticeship in a factory in Charlton in the 70s and became a skilled moulder/core maker for making ship propellers. When the Propeller section moved to Birkenhead in the mid 70s, he didn’t know what to do, so he went to Oxford Street to look for work, where he met a blind man from South Africa. Bernard told him about himself and that he didn’t know what to do and the man said: “It sounds like you like working with people. Why don’t you try working with young people?” Bernard was intrigued and then it all fell into place.

Bernard_1

Bernard found voluntary work in north London to help troubled young adults, where he was taught everything from the ground up. And through some coincidences, one of the managers there, Karl, was to play a big part in Bernard’s long-term future. When Bernard took a paid job in a mental support office in Brixton, Karl was Bernard’s manager again, and after Bernard was diagnosed with sickle cell disease after coming out of a 7-week coma after falling ill at a family party, Karl offered him a job in Newham as soon as he was getting better. “Do you want a job working with young Class A drug users?”, he asked Bernard. This is how he became an Alcohol and Drugs Worker.

After being diagnosed, Bernard needed to be rehoused into more suitable accommodation. He was living in Forest Hill at the time and then he was offered this council flat in Austin House. At first, he didn’t realise where Achilles Street was, despite the fact that he grew up in New Cross, but when he arrived in 2005, he immediately went down Memory Lane. “I came to the UK in the early 1960s when I was 9 years old and grew up not far from Achilles Street”, he tells me. “I used to live in Batavia Road, went to Childeric Primary and attended the doctor’s surgery at Clifton Rise where now the new flats stand. What is now Fordham Park used to be all houses and what is now the underpass by New Cross Station and McMillan Park used to a road that would take you all the way from Pagnell Street to the Albany”, Bernard remembers. “It has changed so much; my past is all but a memory now.” Later his family moved to Brockley and Bernard has moved around London a fair bit, but he has always stayed closely connected to New Cross through school, music and friends. Sickle cell disease has brought him back to New Cross for good.

Bernard remembers Moonshot (when it was still in its original location) and Sybil Phoenix, a Caribbean woman who put her heart and soul into looking after the black community, organising youth and community projects that kept young people off the streets. Bernard was one of those kids, and all the events organised at Moonshot kept him out of trouble. “At that time, there were lots of gangs in the area and there was the Lewisham Gang who invited me to become a member. At first I said yes but then I asked them what they do. When they said they steal, rob and break into people’s houses I declined. My parents had brought me up to never steal and always tell the truth, so I said no. Unfortunately, that made me the enemy of the gang. I remember there was a fight one day between my friend George, a local guy who was part of our community, and another gang. There was a lot of territorial rivalry between Jamaicans and this gang was on our turf in the Childeric playground. It got nasty and George stabbed someone in the side; I was holding George’s coat. To this day I can hear the blade going into the guy’s body and it will stay with me forever. The fight stopped – the guys hadn’t expected to be beaten. I just ran home.”

Life in the 70s was tough for a Jamaican living in New Cross, and Bernard was part of the British Black Power Movement. He remembers his first experience of racism. “I was 12 and walking home from School in my school uniform and then three white women walking past said to me: ‘You have dirty black knees!’ I ran home and asked my parents to buy me long pants!” Later, when he was a young adult, he had a friend living close to the Millwall Den and they used to watch the games together but afterwards “I could never walk her home, I had to leave straight after the game because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it home in peace.”  Bernard was nearly killed at Dartford Train Station, when a group of skinheads who’d been drinking in the Railway Tavern, beat him up really badly. He only survived because a white girl shouted: “You’re going to kill him!” and then they stopped. The train guard put him and another badly beaten black guy onto the train. “I have no recollection of that train journey but luckily the other guy also got off at New Cross and somehow I made it home.”

Bernard is clear that racism still exists today and that we need to recognise it’s there; that parents need to make their children aware. “My parents always taught me to do the right thing, so I’m not bitter. But sometimes there is no cohesion within families, the way some kids talk to their parents! There was a difference in my upbringing, in the values I was taught, to always be honest and respectful. And there were other people that looked after me and influenced me a lot – three in particular. The first was the milkman I used to do the milk round with. He was the sweetest man I’ve ever met. He couldn’t care less that I was black; he took me under his wing. Then there was Mr Laws, an English Teacher at Samuel Pepys Primary School, which doesn’t exist anymore. He would teach us black kids how to pronounce difficult words. And there was one of my mentors when I started up my apprenticeship in Charlton – I learnt a lot from him. ‘What people say is a measure of who they are’ – is really what I have learnt. Children are not bad by default – it really depends on what they’re taught and told when they grow up. But I had a choice and I made something of my life, and if I could do it then others can do it too. People can choose to be good people.”

Bernard went to school with Jah Shaka (or Nev Powell as he was called before), the well-known DJ whose sound system, the Shaka Sound, became well-known across the country for promoting roots music and a spiritually charged atmosphere*. Before Shaka became famous, he used to DJ in Moonshot using the sound system Freddie Cloudburst. Bernard has always loved music and was part of that scene at the time and it was through a strange coincidence that he became a DJ himself. “Shaka was the DJ that night but was not known by that name at that time. We were in Sybil’s house before with Shaka getting ready. We were in different rooms and Shaka asked me to put a record on to check that the equipment was working. I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I’d never put on a record before. My hand was shaking so hard I dropped the needle onto the record. I looked up and then the strangest thing happened. All the people in the room were looking at me and I became aware how much I loved the attention I was getting. It was magic. It was then that I decided to become a DJ.”

Music became Bernard’s No 1 love. Bernard used to DJ in a club on Peckham High Street called Bouncing Ball (later Mr Bees) but he also recalls a night where he was DJ-ing in Ram Jam in Brixton. “You have to understand that people who used to go to Ram Jam knew their music; resident artists there were mostly Jamaicans and so expectations were high. If you didn’t hit the mark with the music, people would not move. There was no-one on the dance floor at first when I started but I remember that after I started playing music the dance floor filled up. It was this power of music that was greater than I. Music was the love of my life”, he says, “music, liquor and weed, this was the life. It was rough and at times dangerous, but life was good!”

His DJ career ended when the smoking of weed became so much that he lost focus. “There are times when your senses are heightened or slowed down and if you’re not mindful, the music will draw you in and distract you from focus. It was a very competitive scene so there was someone ready straight away to take over from me.” But Bernard has no regrets. This love for music is now gone and has been replaced by the love for God; Bernard became a born-again Christian. He first had doubts, but it was God that told him he would blind him to music, and this is what happened. Bernard stopped DJ-ing. But music has taken on another role in Bernard’s life: he’s learning to play the guitar. Now that he is retired, he’s bought himself a guitar and is taking lessons at home.

Bernard_2

Bernard likes living in Austin House because he’s back where he grew up. Living on the 2nd floor is convenient because of his illness. As Bernard can fall ill any time, the ambulance need to be able to get to him quickly so he can’t live higher than on the 2nd floor. Bernard also knows some neighbours who are there for him if he needs them. “There’s Bill obviously – he’s been living here for a long time. He also helped me out once when I locked myself out. Since then I always have a set of keys in my pocket. And there are some other people I know, but the community here has changed a heck of a lot. Many of our former neighbours have moved on or died. Goldsmiths has enlarged its territory and students aren’t mixing very well. They’re here for a bit and then go off again. You can talk to the older folks but the younger ones aren’t interested.”

Bernard would rather he didn’t have to move and he’s not happy about the demolition plans. “I first got wind of the demolition plans was when the council came round telling me they are making provisions for the homeless. I’m not saying no to that, of course we need to house the homeless, but it’s the way the council goes about it. They just steamroll over people’s views, and will the flats really be for the homeless? The council need to put more thought into this and think about how it will affect us. I’ve seen the full implications for our community in the past and now we’re going through the same again. All the community spirit of people living here, and the effort people have put into it over the years, that’s all going to be lost again. There’s one woman who used to live here but her rent went up so much (it’s a privately-rented flat), she’s had to move to Catford. But I can still phone her up and tell her I’m sick or without money and she’ll be here to help. Such relationships take years to build up. But everything has already changed so much. I grew up with certain things in my mind, buildings and places in the area, and they are only distant memories now. Some people call it progress; I don’t think it’s progress if all community centres and council homes are being knocked down. And if you don’t know what was there before, you won’t understand. At least my memories can’t be erased, when I walk through the area, through Fordham Park, I walk through people’s houses because that was there when I grew up. But when I’m gone, my memories will go with me and my history will be erased. But the way the whole area is changing, the local communities will also be erased.”

Bernard is a council tenant and has been promised to be rehoused. He has informed the council that he cannot live higher up than the 2nd floor but hasn’t heard back. According to him, it is only a matter of waiting now. “We tenants, we are not going to win but please treat us right, treat us fairly! We need better regeneration and think about all people. They want to build a car park on Clifton Rise and have Achilles Street free from parked cars. But I am registered as disabled; sometimes I cannot walk as far as Clifton Rise, especially on days when I’m not too well. I need close access to my car and need to be able to get home quickly. At the same time, I need to keep fit and do exercise to manage my illness but on days when I feel dizzy or weak, I cannot walk to Wavelengths to do exercise, I need somewhere closer and cheap to use a gym. I’m a pensioner now and I know what it means to live on a state pension. I used to go on holiday once a year and never worry about money, but now that I’m retired, things have changed a lot. So, I’m limited, physically and financially. I can take sick at any time and I’m very aware of that; the first sign of back pain and I need to stop everything right away and go home. So, it’s good to have people around me that I know and can trust, but I don’t know where these people are going to be housed after that. I hope I’ll be fine.”

*Reference: Anim-Addo, J. (1995) Longest Journey: A History of Black Lewisham. Deptford Forum Publishing

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/we-tenants-we-are-not-going-to-win/

Here is a link to the Deptford is changing blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

“How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for demolition?”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/ called Depford is changing is changing about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

“How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for demolition?”

Sephs flat

When I come up to the third floor of Austin House on Achilles Street, New Cross, where Seph lives, I am enchanted by the beautiful floral display outside her flat. Big ceramic pots align the corridor and flowers are growing in the big window boxes. The display extends to the next flat where a Vietnamese family grow Ginseng which grows to a considerable height in the summer. I enter Seph’s flat and I’m completely overawed by the beauty of her flat. The quirky corners and alcoves, high-ceiling rooms, the light streaming in from all the windows, the wonderful props and ornaments, plants and massive vinyl collection, as well as the colour orange present in every room, makes the flat look incredibly spacious, homely and lived-in.

The first thing Seph shows me is the view from the kitchen window. “I love this open view! You can see Canary Wharf and at night it looks so nice with all the lights, and when the trains go past at night the lights flicker. Sometimes I feel like I live in New York, and the green space below with all the trees makes me think of Central Park.” From her kitchen window you can see all across from London Eye down to Canary Wharf and “at New Year’s Eve I used to have parties and we used to go out on the balcony to see the fireworks”, Seph tells me. She also tells me how horrified she was when she first heard about the redevelopment plans and the big tower they are planning to build on that bit of land. “It would completely obstruct my lovely view.”

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Seph has lived in her flat for over 20 years. When she first got the flat, it had been completely flooded out from above and needed driers for some time to make it inhabitable again. She was offered by the council to either have the flat refurbished or to get given the money to do it herself. She opted for the latter and did all the wallpapering herself (and still laughs at the fact she chose cheap Woodchip Wallpaper!).

In 2002, she bought the flat under the Right-To-Buy scheme. “I feel so safe here. Once my door is bolted I feel so at ease. It’s so quiet here and the spacious flat with views of trees and greenery gives you head space too. It makes you feel good.” Seph also mentions a project carried out by local residents to counter the stigma of ‘sink estates’ by looking at the plants around the estate. They invited an eco-botanist who discovered more than 120 species of wildflowers around the blocks, which included some very rare plants only found on former bomb sites.

Seph is offended by the fact that these flats are labelled as rat-infested, damp and unfit to live in. “How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for demolition? Yes, we have some mice around the block and some flats have issues with damp but so do other blocks and lovely Victorian Houses.” These issues could be resolved easily with proper maintenance of gutters and drainage pipes in the blocks in my opinion.” Looking around her flat, you can understand why she feels resentful about the demolition plans and you wonder why the council would pull down perfectly sound flats. It also makes you wonder what other people’s flats look like and question the whole rhetoric of crime-ridden ‘sink estates’ the government deploys.

This is not to say that there are no problems in the area. “Living here hasn’t always felt safe”, Seph admits, “and I still sometimes don’t like walking up the stairs at night, but this is mostly to do with what was going on 20 years ago. At that time, there were lots of muggings in the area, but thankfully this has improved a lot. Since better security doors have been installed things have got better too.” There have been rare occasions of people hanging out in the staircase at night, but “they are never from here”, Seph asserts. “I know many of the residents at Austin House and they are generally all decent hard-working people. I have seen lots of kids grow up here and they are have turned into lovely, polite caring young adults. It’s others who think because it’s a council block they can just come here and hang out as no-one will care who generally cause the problems.”

The rhetoric of the ‘sink estate’ and the stigma of living in council housing is very widespread and lack of transparency and consideration for local residents angers her. “The council treat us like they think we’re stupid! They say things we do not believe and we can see straight through them. If everybody was really considered; if residents were given suitable alternative homes; if like-for-like really meant that, i.e. if you demolish someone’s flat you give them another one, not a half share of one; if the elderly were given flats with wheelchair access and not coerced off to old people’s homes; and if residents were treated fairly, listened to and kept in the area if that was their wish, I don’t think I would be so against redevelopment. But this doesn’t happen, we’ve seen this in other developments – all these promises are made and then broken, the reality is a completely different story. It’s the fact that the council and developers are so sneaky in trying to get rid of certain people, which makes me so annoyed.”

Seph also mentions local councillors’ repeatedly stated mission of having to house the poor homeless and all those living in temporary accommodation, intending to make campaigners who fight against the development look unreasonable. “It will be interesting to see how many of these people will actually be housed”, Seph says. “The figures seem skewed and originally, the proposal for Achilles Street included very few extra flats for social rent, possibly as few as one extra was mentioned. And what about private renters in our block who have lived here for years and have children in local schools? Who cares about what happens to them and whether they can afford to live in the area still? The council have no responsibility to help rehouse them at all!”

Seph is unsure of what to do. Shall she jump ship before she’s pushed, before the council decides what to do with her? Shared Ownership is not an option for her, and she doesn’t trust the council to give her what her flat is worth, which would enable her to find another place in the area. The only thing she can afford now is another council property but she’s very aware that “you could move into the same situation further down the line, when it will be even harder to deal with as I’ll be older. It would be the third time in my life I have moved to a generally poor but creative area and then had to leave. I moved to Hackney in the 80s, to Goldsmiths Row, near where Broadway Market is today. I lived next to a massive waste ground and paid £40 a week; then it got trendy… Now New Cross is being developed and has all the new cafés everywhere. I don’t want to move again, but feel I have little choice.”*seph_4

But what will Seph move to? She won’t be able to afford another property in the area, certainly not a new-build. Interestingly, a surveyor who came to her flat advised her not to buy a new-build as they are bad quality, he said. Also, a friend of hers lives in one of those new-builds owned by a housing association. They told Seph that they have sewage problems, that the walls a paper-thin and cannot be adorned, that the door knobs have already fallen off, that the slabs on the garden path have become uneven, leading to a fall, and that the paint on the front door has already bleached out. Seph doesn’t like new-builds anyway. “They might look snazzy but I don’t like them. The kitchen is in your lounge and the rooms feel like box-type things, rabbit hutches; they feel more like hotels. They don’t have all the lovely features I have here.” This reminds me of the 85 flats in Solomon’s Passage in Peckham, owned by Wandle Housing Association, which have to be demolished/refurbished only 6 years after they were built due to using bad quality materials.

If Seph moves, it’ll be out of London, probably to Kent somewhere. It’s a difficult decision and she’s trying to put a positive spin on it. London, particularly south London, has been a creative and exciting place to be on a personal and professional level. She has loved living in the New Cross and Deptford area, the live music on the streets, the dancers on the square, and Deptford market where she has bought many of the curious objects in her flat. I take lots of photos of the flat. I am perhaps the last person to see the flat as it is; I’m beginning to feel emotional myself. I can’t imagine what it must be like having to pack up 20 odd years of memories in a much-loved home.

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*Since our conversation, Seph has made the difficult decision to move.

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/how-can-you-call-this-flat-uninhabitable-and-ready-for-demolition/

Here is a link to the Deptford is changing blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

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