Sadiq Khan: get real about making regeneration more accountable to communities

photo.jpgWhen Sadiq Khan launched his Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration in December, the mayor proclaimed he was putting Londoners first. Sadly the Guide fails to live up to this promise. In its response to the consultation, Southwark Green Party sides with London Assembly member Siân Berry (pictured right, with members of Southwark Green Party), who described the Guide as 'useless'.

Southwark Greens want to keep Sadiq Khan to his promises. We've seen the damage that can be done when residents are ignored. In Southwark, council homes have been demolished, an urban forest of 300 trees felled and a community dispersed on the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle. The Heygate had 1,194 council flats at the time of its demolition, but the new Elephant Park of will have just 74 'socially rented' flats with the majority of the 2,500 flats for sale. Those offered at 'affordable' rent are at 80% of commercial rent in the area, around a third higher than social rent. Promises that former residents could return to live in the new development sound empty when it's revealed that the cheapest one-bed 'shared ownership' flat requires a minimum household income of £57,500.

A similar process is being repeated with the Aylesbury Estate, off the Walworth Road. Residents who had bought council properties through 'Right to Buy' have been made very low offers for their homes - sums that would not allow them to find a new home in the area. The Planning Inspector said this would breach their human rights but Southwark Council is now attempting to have this decision overruled.

Greens recognise and support the incredible work of local residents in community groups in Southwark and Lambeth. Find out more about the 35% Campaign and Elephant Amenity Network, Save Cressingham Gardens and the campaign to save the Central Hill Estate. Read on below the line to see the comments that Southwark Green Party have today sent to the mayor on why his Guide is not good enough. 

Southwark Green Party is very disappointed with the Homes for Londoners – Draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration. This vague ‘guide’ would at best confuse councils and landlords about what they should be doing and at worst could be used to justify the demolition of estates across London. It also neatly skirts around the Mayor’s manifesto commitments.

Sadiq Khan clearly stated in his manifesto that estate regeneration should only take place after full and transparent consultation and with resident support. The document however, suggests caution when balloting residents and does not make provision for residents to have a final say in the future of their estate. Without any binding provision on landlords and developers to actually pay attention to the final views of residents, the whole consultation process risks becoming a show rather than a chance for meaningful engagement with local people.

Throughout the document there is reference to some laudable goals such as early and meaningful engagement with residents, measurement of social costs of regeneration and consultations that result in clear actions arising from views expressed by residents. Unfortunately, none of these ideas have been clearly defined or made quantifiable. For instance, how to measure the cost of ‘doing nothing’ (i.e. no regeneration) or the cost on resident’s health of poor housing is left entirely open to interpretation. There must be clear conditions laid out that must be met by councils and landlords before any GLA funding is released for estate regeneration.

Another hugely disappointing aspect of the Guide is the complete absence of reference to resident-led plans and the lack of provision for supporting local communities with practical resources to help them determine what would be right for their estates.

In light of these shortcomings Southwark Green Party would suggest a re-write of the Guide with a much greater focus on empowering local residents both to make their own plans and to hold councils and developers to account – backed up by tangible resources. Conditions for receiving GLA funding for estate regeneration should be clearly laid out with measurable goals and estate consultations requiring independent quantitative assessment of resident’s views. Councils and developers cannot be held to account by residents without guidelines much clearer than this one! Southwark Green Party believes that estate regeneration is something that should happen with residents, not to them.

We want to see London grasp this opportunity to make regeneration more accountable to local people and provide real opportunities for communities to participate in the decisions that affect them. This means

  • independent ballots to decide fundamental changes, such as demolition;

  • schemes to back residents with the funds and expertise they need to develop preferred options and define their collective futures;

  • genuinely meaningful criteria (with the means to assess them) for community engagement that councils have to meet in order to secure backing.

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