Ladywell locals are protesting against the refusal of a betting shop to let vacant flats above its premises – with the help of TV celebrity Phil Spencer.
The Ladywell Village Improvement Group organised Tuesday’s protest against the Coral bookmakers on the corner of Ladywell and Algernon Roads, a building owned by E. Coomes ltd and leased to Coral.
For ten years there have been two empty two-bed properties above the shop. The exact condition of the flats is unknown, but last week Lewisham Council served an environmental health order on the properties due to pigeons in the roof.
Phil Spencer, from property programme Location Location Location, was filming the protest and speaking to Ladywell residents for a programme that will be aired on Channel 4 on December 7.
Lara Alden, press officer for LVIG, explained that the group had been writing to both Coral and E. Coomes since 2008, but that their responses had been “minimal.”
She said: “Unlike many of the smaller business in Ladywell, Coral is a big multinational company who can afford to put these properties into use.”
“Two perfectly good properties cannot go to waste in an area where there is so much demand for housing.”
Ladywell resident and member of community action group Lewisham People Before Profit, George Hallam, 64, said:
“The housing list in Lewisham is about 17,000 at the moment. Despite the price of property, there are still places that are vacant. Landlords are not using their properties.”
“This is indicative of a whole approach where profit comes before people.”
As part of the protest locals marked out a 12ft by 12ft space on the pavement outside the building. This is the average size of a bedsit in Lewisham. Furnishings were donated by local businesses, and the space was used for the television interview.
Alden added that: “We do have quite a strong community for a London suburb.”
Slater & King art retailer, a similar property on Ladywell Road, had derelict flats above it for 15 years. These were recently restored thanks to council intervention after an environmental health warning similar to that on the flats above Coral.
LVIG have been liaising with Lewisham council over the Coral site, although their powers over the building are limited.
Jos Bell, a property owner who rents rooms out to lodgers in Lewisham, also attended the protest. “I have noticed a massive rise in urgent demand [for housing] over the last few months,” she said.
“Much of the problem is that banks don’t recognise the income that landlords get from lodgers, so it is impossible for people such as first time buyers to get a mortgage and be able to rent out rooms.”
“Much of the money that people do get from lodgers is hidden in the economy, causing stagnation. The banks are the main cause of this.”
A spokesperson for Coral told EastLondonlines that the properties above the shop were not part of their lease.
E. Coomes were not available for comment.