Residents query Lambeth Council’s consultation on regeneration of estate

A tenant of Lambeth Council has begun a High Court legal action today in her bid to challenge the council’s plans to redevelop the Cressingham Gardens estate in Lambeth, South London, where she has lived since 2009.

Eva Bokrosova is applying for the decision of the council, to redevelop the estate, to be judicially reviewed at the High Court. A judicial review application was served on the Council today (11 June 2015).

Since 2012 residents of the estate have campaigned for repairs to be made to the estate which was built in the 1960s and is a low rise, small scale estate which contains plenty of green space, and described by Lord Esher, past president of RIBA, as ‘one of the nicest small schemes in England'.

The estate is made up of 306 homes, 213 of which are council homes.

In February 2014 Lambeth Council set up the Cressingham Gardens Project Team to consider the future of the estate, and put forward five options for discussion.

They included options that involved:

  • Opion 1 - Refurbishing the estate and bringing all council tenant homes up to decent homes standard, including the six void flats that have stood empty for over 16 years;
  • Options 2 and 3 - Refurbishing as in Option 1, plus infilling to create new homes.
  • Option 4 - Partial demolition of the estate, with the net extra in new build homes sold at top market price
  • Option 5 - Full demolition and rebuilding of the estate

Ms Bokrosova is challenging the council’s decision to cease consultations on options 1-3, and to consult residents only on options 4 and 5.

A three month consultation was launched by Lambeth Council on 6 November 2014 when Lambeth Council wrote to tenants seeking their views.

The letter contained all five options together with costings, and included a schedule of workshops, one of which was to take place the day after the letter was dated, on 7 November 2014.

A number of sub-groups were set up to consider resident management options; wellbeing; green retrofitting; financial modelling; and test of opinion.  These met between November 2014 and January 2015, but had not completed their reports by the time Lambeth Council announced the decision about the estate’s future on 9 March 2015.

Ms Bokrosova attended the first workshop and a number of other meetings when residents, many of the elderly and disabled, made specific points about preferring the refurbishment option, rather than demolition.

Ms Bokrosova alleges that the views of residents who were not able to attend meetings were not able to give their views on the consultation and that they forms used in meetings were too simplistic to express the wider views and opinions of residents who did attend meetings.

On 26 February 2015 residents were contacted by the Housing Councillor of Lambeth Council to inform them that Lambeth had “undertaken the necessary financial analysis on the refurbishment options (options 1 to 3)” and that “A paper is going to be presented to the Council’s Cabinet in March 2015, which recommends that those options, which neither significantly reduce the costs to refurbish the estate to an affordable level nor deliver the number of new homes that the Council expect to see, will not be consulted on further.”

Ms Bokrosova has instructed human rights solicitor Ugo Hayter to argue on her behalf that the decision of Lambeth Council to drop options 1-3 was unlawful arguing that the Council has failed to take into account the views of residents, and that the Council has decided to not proceed with options 1-3 on the basis that they were not “affordable”, despite the financial aspect of the redevelopment not having been evaluated as an issue in the consultation process.

Leigh Day also argues that the Council unlawfully failed to discharge the Public Sector Equality Duty in making the decision as some residents, particularly elderly and disabled residents, were unable to attend meetings which were held at night and with short notice.

Ms Bokrosova raised these points with the Council in April 2015.  The Council responded by saying that it had spent a long time engaging with residents and had conscientiously considered their views.

Leigh Day argues that the decision by Lambeth to exclude options 1-3 from consideration is unlawful and has applied to the Court to grant permission for judicial review of that decision.

Human rights solicitor Ugo Hayter says:

“Following a three month consultation, where the vast majority of the residents made it clear that they favoured refurbishment over demolition, Lambeth Council out of the blue announced that all options to refurbish the estate were off the table. This decision was then rubber stamped by the council's cabinet members.

Lambeth's decision is clearly unlawful and we look forward to it being quashed by the High Court.

The residents have thought long and hard for their homes and their community, they trusted that the council would undertake a fair and meaningful consultation, they feel now that clearly their trust was misplaced.”

Eva Bokrosova says:

“'Two and a half years ago, Lambeth Council promised us they wouldn't do anything that didn't command our confidence and support.

“Instead, following a shotgun consultation at the end of last year, they decided to demolish our homes. This was not only against our wishes but also, we believe, against the evidence.

“They call themselves a co-operative council but that's only true if you bow to their agenda.

“We want them to face up to their obligations and carry out a fair consultation that takes account of all the feedback and the facts.”