South London estate tenants fear ‘nightmare’ demolition will destroy their community

Residents on an estate set to be flattened say they want it refurbished instead.

Lambeth Council’s housing company, Homes for Lambeth, is planning to knock down 306 council homes on Cressingham Gardens, which overlooks Brockwell Park.

The authority wants to redevelop the estate to include a mix of council and private homes.

The plans were set in motion nearly eight years ago, while the estate is one of six the council is focused on redeveloping.

But many on the estate told the Local Democracy Reporting Service they would like it repaired rather than demolished.

Sean Molloy has lived on the estate for nearly 50 years. The 56-year old said: “There’s a 90-year-old woman here who’s like a nan to me – what would happen to her?

“I live on my own but we all know and support each other.”

His friend Christine said she got Covid over Christmas and would have been lost without Sean.

The 69-year-old, who has lived on the estate for about 30 years, said: “The council has little care for the estate.

“[Moving] is going to have a serious impact on me. We’ve got a community here and it’s a beautiful place.”

Christine and Sean said the estate needs to repaired rather than knocked down.

Christine said: “They can’t just demolish the estate because they haven’t bothered to repair it in years.”

Michael O’Keeffe, 84, has lived on the at risk estate for 40 years

Michael O’Keeffe, who has lived on the estate for 40 years, said he wants the estate to stay as it is.

The 84-year-old said: “We’ve got a nice community spirit here – we’ve got a nice little hall which we use to meet the neighbours on a Saturday.

“The council will move us into some matchbox place somewhere else.

“No one who’s been here any length of time wants to move.”

Anne Cooper worries about moving, the 59-year-old said: “It would be an absolute nightmare. I moved here 10 years ago thinking and hoping that this would be the last time I would ever move.

“The idea of a move at this stage of my life, it’s a really frightening scenario. I don’t know if I would respond, by becoming manic or depressed.”

Residents say they want the Cressingham Gardens estate to be refurbished instead of demolished

A poster in a council tenant’s window on Cressingham Gardens estate asks for a residents vote on any plans

Anne said she would also lose her neighbours who have been checking in on her since she became sick two weeks ago.

She said: “All of that will be lost if we’re all shunted off to places where we don’t know people.”

Tania Chetcuti said she feels like she’s been in “limbo” for years and is worried about where Lambeth plans to put her.

Sadiq Khan pulled funding from the estate redevelopment in 2020 because the scheme was behind schedule.

To get further GLA funding the council will have to ballot residents on its plans.

A government planning inspector, which recently published his recommendations to Lambeth’s draft local plan, wrote that resident ballots are “democratic” and “justified”.

But Lambeth Council has refused to do a ballot so far.

Residents say they want the Cressingham Gardens estate to be refurbished instead of demolished

Lambeth Council plans to demolish all the homes on Cressingham Gardens and redevelop the site

A council spokesman said London is “facing a severe housing crisis”.

He said: “In Lambeth, this means that over 30,000 people are on the council’s waiting list for social housing and, every night, the council provides temporary accommodation for over 2,700 homeless families, including some 5,000 children.

“We know there is a severe shortage of permanent homes for these families, which is why we have embarked on the biggest building programme in Lambeth for a generation: because we know the housing crisis can’t be fought without the council playing its part to build homes for local families.

“Our plans to rebuild Cressingham Gardens will enable us to increase the amount of social housing at council rent levels on the estate and to provide more homes for local families.”

He said Lambeth’s cabinet approved the redevelopment in 2016 “after extensive consultation with residents”.

The spokesman added: “Refurbishment options were considered but it was made clear throughout that it would cost significantly more to refurbish properties at Cressingham Gardens than elsewhere in Lambeth, and that it was highly unlikely that refurbishment would resolve all the problems with the properties on the estate.

“An independent, external viability report considered at the meeting in 2016 concluded that ‘it would appear unviable under any of the four options for the retained homes to be viable for refurbishment’.”

More detailed plans for the estate are expected in the coming months.

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