Local activists illegally occupying a Lewisham community garden to prevent its demolition by the council and social housing contractors are staging a last-ditch attempt to save the space before their eviction at the end of the month.
The occupiers and residents – many of whom moved in more than 20 years ago – are stepping up their campaign to prevent the building of 209 homes by Peabody.
Regeneration plans for the site close to Deptford Creek were submitted in 2016. They include the demolition of Reginald House to make way more new homes. The council have promised that a vast majority of the new homes will be genuinely affordable.
The Save Tidemill and Reginald House campaign object to this. They argue that “Eighty per cent of those that live in Reginald House did not want their homes being demolished” and that Tidemill garden should be saved due to its positive impact on the local environment.
Tidemill Primary School originally built the garden space for pupils in 1997. The school and green area were closed by the council in 2006 and were always earmarked for new council homes.
During the planning application stages Lewisham council gave the land to the community as a “meanwhile use space” until the developers were ready.
“They gave us meanwhile space of the garden. We realised the value of it, so many trees being felled, so many tower blocks are going up […] the garden mitigates it” says member of the campaign group Heather Gilmore.
Area that is set to be demolished by Peabody
The campaign to save the newly named Tidemill Wildlife Gardens started by residents grew. On 29 August 2018, 60 local residents and activists resisted the initial eviction. The garden and school playgrounds are now filled with over a dozen squatters who have built makeshift homes and treehouses out of commercial property boards.
Lewisham council have promised the 16 residents of Reginald House that they will be re-homed in the new social housing on site that has already been built, at the same price.
Campaigners of Save Tidemill and Reginald House have refuted this and argue that the new properties will actually be priced at London Affordable Rent instead of social housing caps. This scheme introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan could potentially increase bills by £3,000 each year.
Speaking to East London Lines, Lewisham council said of this claim: “That is factually inaccurate . Every single resident currently living on the site will be guaranteed the right to a new home on the site and compensation for the disruption caused and all of the current tenants will get new properties on the same rent levels.”
Andy Worthington from No Social Cleanse Lewisham said; “You can’t build by knocking down existing social housing that is structurally sound, but has been neglected by Lewisham Council for the last few years.”
Lewisham council said: “We are in the grip of an acute housing crisis and this project is about providing more desperately-needed homes. The development will provide 209 new homes, out of which 158 (74%) will be genuinely affordable. Of the 158, 104 will be new additional social homes. This project is not about the structural condition of the existing homes on Reginald Road.”
A key argument by the Save Tidemill group is that the trees felled by Lewisham council to create these homes will negatively affect the environment and protection from carbon emissions.
The council said this was not the case, with a spokesperson saying; “The new development will result in the removal of 36 trees. However these will be replaced with 64 trees, all semi-mature and between 2.5-3m in height. This means that the total number of trees will increase from 49 up to 73.”
A recent court case ruled that those living in the garden would be evicted on the 24 October to make way for developers.
The community group have countered this and will attend an aural hearing on the 18 October requesting a judicial review against the council’s approval of the housing plans.
If this goes forward then a long legal battle may ensue to find a resolution for this garden area of Deptford.