Forty one households in south east London fear they will be removed from their homes by the Labour-run council’s plan to scrap their sheltered accommodation.
Residents of Sam Manners House in Greenwich spoke to Socialist Worker about how council officers treated them with contempt when they tried to raise concerns.
“Nobody from the council spoke directly to us about the plans until 11 October,” said Alex.
“A group of people from the council came round and tried to brush our concerns off.
“I said, ‘I don’t know who you are. Why is this the first time we have seen you?’”
Residents are right to be suspicious. They had just six days to raise concerns about the plans between their meeting with council officers and the council cabinet meeting on 17 October that voted on the plans.
Those are hardly the actions of an organisation committed to a full consultation.
Residents had first heard of the plans in a letter dated 3 October from the council’s housing department.
It said, “Recommendation is to decommission Sam Manners House and redevelop the site to provide a number of local authority new build units.”
That was the option voted through on 17 October.
What this means is unclear. Will only new sheltered accommodation be built on the site? Will the council develop the site with council housing on it?
Or will the redevelopment be done in partnership with a private developer who will provide only minimal “Local Authority New Build units”? Greenwich council has a lot of questions to answer.
The most important question is what will happen to the people who live in Sam Manners House.
Terry described what the scheme meant to the people who live there. “All our memories are here,” said Terry. “It’s discrete, respectful and dignified housing for people whose life is drawing to a close.”
“We would lose all our connections if we were forced to move away.”
After it voted for the redevelopment, the council cabinet said that “other sites can be considered for provision of temporary housing”. No more information was given in the document.
It said that residents might be able to stay in “former sheltered scheme blocks at Cooper Court and Swingate Lane” while the redevelopment is taking place.
But temporary accommodation in Greenwich is already well oversubscribed, as council documents show.
As Alex said, “You can’t pour a litre of liquid into a quarter litre container.”
Residents fear property developer Savills is involved in the redevelopment. In February the council told residents it had appointed the firm to “undertake a survey on our behalf”.
Greenwich council has given no good reason for the proposed demolition.
Residents at Sam Manners House need written assurances that they will have secure, safe homes for the rest of their lives.
Protesters want a say on estate demolition
Housing campaigners are set to protest outside the Greater London Assembly demanding that all estates get a ballot on redevelopment proposals.
In July London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan brought in changes on how residents are consulted.
He pledged that all estates considered for redevelopment would get a ballot on the proposals.
But 36 estates in London were exempted from the pledge. These projects are already underway and their developers can apply for exemption from ballots.
Campaigners are demanding that Khan includes these estates in his ballot proposals.
“Sadiq Khan isn’t the only person who can make a ballot happen,” said Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing.
“At the last local elections Camden and Hackney Labour parties included in their manifestos promises to ballot estates on redevelopments.”
The Cambridge Road estate in Kingston-upon-Thames is one of the 36 excluded from the proposals, but the council has promised a ballot anyway.
Political pressure can also be applied to the minsters responsible for housing—James Brokenshire and Kit Malthouse.
Eileen said, “There are at least 82 estates in London that are threatened with development and demolition—all of them need a ballot.
“And so do the estates outside of London which are being forgotten in all of this.”