Residents from an estate in New Cross are being told to vote in a ballot to decide if the estate will be demolished and redeveloped, despite a lack of clarity about what will be built in its place – and whether they will be able to afford to live in the new estate.
People living and working in around 87 homes and 15 businesses in the Achilles Street Estate Azalea House, Austin House and Fenton House – are calling on the council to provide a more detailed plan of what will happen, after it unveiled plans for an 18-storey high rise block, with 450 new homes to replace their homes.
Residents of the estate say they are concerned that while they are being asked to vote on whether their homes should be demolished when they don’t have enough information about the regeneration.
Christian Codjoe, a campaigner for Achilles Street Estate Stop and Listen and lifelong resident of the estate, told East London Lines: “There’s no clarity but we’re still being asked to vote on a redevelopment, and we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“They’re not giving us definite answer about what kind of property we’re going to get, the size, the outdoor space or where we are going to be living.”
The residents are being consulted thanks to a ruling put in place in 2018 by Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London which said demolition of social homing cannot go ahead without the support of existing residents.
Last Thursday, a meeting held by the Achilles Street Stop and Listen campaign, a group that are against the demolition, voiced their concerns.
One of their main concerns is that the council cannot give a legally binding promise that they will be rehoused in the new buildings.
One resident said: “For me and my family, the option of moving to another property as a temporary measure and waiting till they’ve demolished the tower block is too much expense, we don’t even want to consider that”.
Christian said: “The council are saying the right things to us, but they are missing out a lot of important information. This landlord offer, if we do vote yes and go ahead with the redevelopment it is not guaranteed, this is not a contract”.
Lewisham Council has given residents something called a Landlord offer – a list of commitments that council tenants will receive, but this is not legally binding.
Residents acknowledge that the estate needs modernising, but many are unhappy at the prospect of moving away.
Christian, who has lived in a maisonette all his life said: “I did my balcony up two years ago, I have loads of parties, BBQs, loads of fun there. I’m happy with where I live”.
Jacqueline Utley is another resident and campaigner who has lived on the estate for nearly 30 years.
She said: “Our houses are spacious, and we have a lot of space around the tower block, I don’t think people are going to realise how claustrophobic the redevelopment will be if it goes ahead”.
East London Lines put these concerns to Lewisham Council. Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Paul Bell said: “We’re really excited to be offering the residents on the Achilles Street Estate the opportunity to have a say on the future of their estate. We want to build 100-150 new council-owned homes for social rent in addition to new homes for all existing residents at no additional cost to them. All of the new homes will be built to the highest-quality, safety and environmental standards, meaning that residents will pay lower utility bills.”
“If residents vote for the proposals to go ahead, we will work with them to finalise the design of the rebuilt estate so that it will deliver green, public areas and more spaces for local businesses, along with an increased amount of council homes for homeless families in Lewisham.”
Lewisham council have said previously that they want to increase the amount of council owned homes for social rent and create new high-quality homes for existing residents.
Initial plans for the redevelopment began in February 2016 when the council proposed to rebuild 450 new homes on the estate.
It is a part of Lewisham’s Core Strategy which addresses the housing crisis in the borough, aiming to build over 18,000 new homes up until 2026.
The ballot began on Friday 18 October and is running till 11 November, with results being published on Monday 18 November.