South London estate fighting to save its only green space from being turned into flats

A South London housing estate’s only green space is under threat from a proposed building development under Southwark Council.

Residents living on Kingston Estate, Walworth, first realised that their sacred green space was under threat when they saw workmen conducting test drills on the site.

Jim Colfer, who has lived on the estate since 1984, was left puzzled when he saw fences protecting the area had been pulled down by workmen.

READ MORE: The group fighting to protect some of the biggest green spaces in London

Kingston Estate resident, Jim Colfer, has been campaigning against the proposed building development on the green patch of land he shares with other residents

He recalled the revelation to MyLondon: “Initially that green space was completely fenced in by our own fences. Some years ago on that green space, in the one corner – they put in an allotment for people to grow whatever they want in there. The rest of us were all fenced off.

“The first we knew of anything happening, three or four parts of that fence was pulled down and we noticed some workmen doing test drills. We thought, ‘what’s going on here?'”

When asked on why they weren’t consulted first, the council allegedly said the pandemic was to blame for a lack of communication between residents and the committee.

Posters and banners against the development

Posters and banners against the development

Jim and others later discovered Southwark Council had plans to build eight new homes, all for social rent, on the green patch of land where residents enjoy growing vegetables and children can play within a safe vicinity from their parents.

The council pledge online that the eight homes are part of a “long term commitment” to build 11,000 new council homes by 2043 in a bid to tackle their 16,000-strong waiting list for housing – the fifth largest waiting list in the city.

However, campaigners argue that building eight new homes on an already limited patch of green space will have serious implications for those who live there now.

In documents seen by MyLondon, Jim put 26 points to Southwark Council Leader, Kieron Williams, on why residents object to the plans.

‘Compromising the privacy of residents’

The proposed patch of land that will have eight homes for social rent built on top of it

The proposed patch of land that will have eight homes for social rent built on top of it

A major concern for residents is that the proposed building fails to meet Residential Design Standards 2015, that a building must be kept a minimal 21 metres apart from another – with one of the closest points for the proposed building less than 10 metres away from Everett House, which is less than half of the proposed guideline.

Another concern was that the new building would block sunlight entering the flats of some Everett House residents, as well as “compromising the privacy of residents”.

Neighbouring resident, Liba Hoskin believes the council is “breaking all sorts of rules” to push for their building proposal to go to the next stage.

The 68-year-old added: “T he allowed distance for a building according to council policy is 21 metres. Considering pavement space as well, it’s not possible to build there, so they’re breaking all sorts of rules to design a very strange sort of building.

“It doesn’t work, if the council used their common sense and weren’t just politically driven and listened to the residents – but no, they want to push it through the application process.”

Empty homes on site

Peter Gamble (left), a resident of nearby Everett House, who launched a petition against the development, stood with Jim (right)

Peter Gamble (left), a resident of nearby Everett House, who launched a petition against the development, stood with Jim (right)

Jim told MyLondon he knows of at least two empty units sitting vacant on the estate, and suggested the council should give development priority to existing housing stock in the borough.

“They should really convert those properties back into flats. There’s empty properties all around the borough,” Jim added.

Peter Gamble, a resident of nearby Everett House, launched a petition against the development and asked Kingston residents and neighbouring residents for their views.

According to Jim, 93 per cent of Everett House residents are against the development, with 84 per cent of the entire estate also against it.

Jim says despite several invitations for the planning committee to listen to the resident’s concerns in person, they’ve only had one face-to-face meeting back in July.

Loss of green space

The size of the greenery from a distance

The size of the greenery from a distance

Much like the case of Peckham Green, Kingston Estate will loose its green space if the building proposal gets approved.

The current greenery is safe enough for parents to watch their children from a distance, however a new space proposed by the council would be round the corner and away from the estate, which has concerned parents who rely on the greenery.

Liba added: ” All local parents are very aware on how important their green space is. The estate green is really important for children – the space they are suggesting is secluded and not possible to see from our buildings.

“I really hope that common sense will prevail and that the council can see it’s not a good idea. It’s very stressful.”

Another issue that would impact the social environment of the area would be down to unpleasant noise pollution from workmen and their equipment.

'All local parents are very aware on how important their green space is'

‘All local parents are very aware on how important their green space is’

Jim says the sound of noisy drills from the building site will disrupt children from learning at a nearby secondary school for at least two years – which is the proposed time frame for the proposed project to be completed by is Winter 2023.

“I have yet to find a silent drill on a building site. Imagine all this noise and pollution affecting the children in that school, but they (the council) say it won’t affect them at all,” Jim adds.

Today (Tuesday, November 16) Southwark councillors on the planning committee will hear from residents such as Jim on the reasons why they strongly object the council’s plans.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Council Homes and Homelessness, said: “We are proposing to build eight new council homes on the Kingston Estate in line with our commitment to tackling the housing crisis locally and providing more truly affordable housing for our residents.

“In Southwark, we have more than 16,000 households on our housing waiting list for a home, and around 3,400 households currently living in temporary accommodation. In some cases whole families are living in single rooms while they wait for a new home. This is clearly unacceptable and that is why we are exploring every potential way to build as many new council homes as we can across the borough.

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“We held a consultation with Kingston Estate residents to gather their views and feedback on our proposals to build new homes on the estate. The consultation took place over nine months, starting in October 2020.

“We understand that some residents have raised concerns and so we have committed to carrying out further engagement to ensure that resident’s wishes are reflected in the improvements we would make to the overall estate.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with residents here to provide desperately-needed new homes for our community.”

Are you a resident of Kingston Estate? Get in touch with your thoughts at [email protected]

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