Woodberry Down estate public inquiry adjourned

John, Jack and Huysein pic: Jennifer Elizabeth Jackson

Residents of the housing estate Woodberry Down, in Hackney, face an anxious wait after the Council’s barrister failed to show-up to a public inquiry that was supposed to take place on January 23 and 24 at Hackney Town Hall.

The inquiry is an investigation into a compulsory purchase order issued to leaseholders on March, 2012. Residents have accused the Council of failing to comply with statutory requirements relating to the notification of the purchase order, after they purchased homes on the estate. Huysein, a lease holder of Burtley Close, who withheld his surname said: “Notification of the CPO was not clear enough.”

He added: “This lack of understanding has led residents into false understanding and confusion over the deadline date. The posters and notices were placed on a few lampposts discreetly but none were put onto notice boards situated in the blocks and on the boards in Spring Park Drive.”

According to the Council, the residents of the estate were invited to an open consultation before the letters were sent out. In a report Hackney Councils, Principal Surveyor explained: “The Council offered open consultation with affected parties in advance of the making of the CPO, and was compliant with statutory requirements relating to the making of a CPO, [including] negotiations with freehold and leasehold owners.”

“Drop-in sessions were provided, council tenants were analysed for their re-housing needs.”

Despite the vehemence of Hackney Council and Ardent Management, Audrey, a resident of Woodberry Estate said: “This report is contradictory to the information we received.”

John Manning, a resident of the estate since 1955, said: “Unless we had been proactive in obtaining information on the CPO, we wouldn’t have known because the council was not forthcoming with its information.”

According to residents who attended the postponed inquiry: “We were reassured by a council officer that nothing will happen for a while yet and so getting official documentation a month later was not expected.” One resident who wished to remain anonymous went on to say: “False understanding and confusion over the CPO deadline date, which they site as the reason that there were so few objections to CPO notice.

However, with the adjournment that took place on January 23, the residents of Woodberry Down estate  now have the opportunity to let their objections be known. John Manning said: “If the barrister is not here, yes we are put out together but this adjournment will allow us to gather and come up with a less hurried response and have a stronger argument when the inquiry is re-scheduled.”

Cllr Karen Alcock, Hackney Council’s deputy mayor, said: “All the leaseholders and freeholders who live on the Woodberry Down estate are an essential part of the local community, and the Council is doing everything it can to help those who wish to remain on the estate. We have a range of rehousing options, including an offer of financial assistance to those in financial difficulties who wish to remain on the estate. Our negotiations are continuing and once the purchase price has been agreed, the Council will pay compensation and reasonable moving expenses. I would like to reassure all leaseholders that using the powers granted by a CPO would be a last resort, and that discussions with all leaseholders will be conducted in a fair and transparent way.”

Despite this, leaseholders and freeholders are growing increasingly concerned for their homes on the estate. They are worried they will not receive adequate compensation for their homes, stopping them from purchasing equivalent properties in the area.

They feel the ongoing regeneration process has undermined their right to live on the estate: “We were never told that this land was at risk. We bought this house (for which we are still paying a mortgage) because we wanted to escape from the anonymous and solitary life of these horrible blocks of flats”, said Huysein.

Woodberry Down Estate is now entering the second phase of its regeneration, after previously being granted a CPO during its first phase of regeneration in 2007; to which the Council clammed to have “Successfully negotiated with all parties.” The public inquiry is set to resume again in four to five weeks.

Hackney Council declined to comment on the behalf of their absent Barrister.

For more on the background to this story.

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