In 2012 Lambeth councillor Lib Peck announced to the people of Cressingham Gardens that their beloved estate was to be included in their regeneration programme. She said:
I want to reassure people that we are not interested in doing anything to the estate that doesn’t command the confidence and support of its residents. We want to work with residents to realise the best for the estate and believe this is an excellent opportunity for people living on the estate to work with us to improve it.
Of course, over the next three years we made it clear to Lambeth Council that we wanted our estate to be repaired rather than demolished but our wishes were dismissed on the grounds that any proposal involving repairs would be "unaffordable". We challenged them to prove it but instead they moved the goalposts and focused instead on the borough's need for additional homes.
We brought a Judicial Review. We won. They were forced to re-consult, reviewing again all options, including repairing the estate.
On March 21st, Lambeth Council will again decide the fate of Cressingham Gardens. We remember Cllr Peck's promise of 2012 and the council's casual dismissal of the residents' wishes.
The 'People's Plan' has been devised to challenge Lambeth's lazy thinking and propose instead a way forward that respects our wishes, honours Cllr Peck's promise, addresses Lambeth's financial concerns, provides additional housing and keeps us in the homes that we love.
This version was handed in to the council on March 4, but is still a developing document and the authors welcome ongoing input from residents and the wider community.
The People's Plan has been developed by the residents of Cressingham Gardens with technical support from a team of architects, surveyors, sustainability and financial experts as a realistic alternative to the council’s proposals to demolish the estate that are likely to result in the community being displaced.
The housing list in Lambeth currently sits at 22,000. One of the key issues that the council has failed to meaningfully respond to, is the additional load caused by demolishing huge swathes of existing affordable and council homes on Cressingham and also across the five estates earmarked for regeneration over the next five to 10 years.
The People's Plan however, is a neat solution that would provide additional housing without uprooting the community or pressuring the housing list, whilst maintaining the sensitive relationship the estate has with the Brockwell Park conservation area.
The council's best possible re-provision to date- which requires full demolition and a five-year construction programme - offers 23 additional houses at council rent levels. The People's Plan could provide as many as 37 new homes, 33 of them at council rent levels, without large-scale demolition, and in a much shorter timescale.
The homes proposed in the car parks for example, provide 23 of these units as modular 'inserts' into the existing space. The beauty of them is that you can build three for the cost of one new build flat. This is a bonus in terms of the value for money at a time when there is so much pressure on councils to deliver more for less.
This idea is not new either, progressive councils like Islington, have just completed similar projects on Parkhurst Road estate and Vulcan Way, providing new houses whilst being sensitive to the needs and desires of the community.
Part of the plan is a new resident-led management strategy, whereby the community takes control of the construction and maintenance of the estate going forward.
This approach would ensure a more sustainable development model which would also include bringing up the existing houses to Lambeth housing standards and then improve the housing stock through a phased green retrofit programme.
The further advantage to Lambeth is that the community would be able to deliver these through alternative funding sources without impacting on the Housing Revenue Account; which has been regularly cited as the limitation when considering refurbishment as an option.
The models and sources for funding this project by the community have been rigorously explored and the community is confident that this scheme also fulfils the councils key strategic considerations (as defined on the 17th of February) for any major building scheme.
The People's Plan is an exciting and viable option and offers the council a radical new alternative that provides much more for a lot less while still respecting the existing vibrant intergenerational community in and around Cressingham Gardens.