A two-day High Court hearing begins tomorrow (3 November 2015) against Lambeth Council on behalf of a resident of the Cressingham Gardens estate in Lambeth, South London, challenging the council’s decision on how it plans to redevelop the estate.
Cressingham Gardens was built in the 1960s and is a low rise, small scale estate which is made up of 306 homes, 213 of which are council homes.
This medium to high density estate was described by Lord Esher, past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), as ‘one of the nicest small schemes in England’.
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. These included:
- Option 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
A three-month consultation was launched by Lambeth Council in November 2014 when it wrote to tenants seeking their views.
Groups were set up to consider resident management options; wellbeing; green retrofitting; financial modelling; and test of opinion.
These groups met between November 2014 and January 2015 and had not completed their reports when, 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.”
The judicial review starting at the High Court tomorrow challenges the decision by Lambeth Council to cease consultations on options 1-3 despite the financial aspect of the redevelopment not having been evaluated as an issue in the consultation process.
Lawyers from Leigh Day claim that this decision is unlawful and that the Council has failed to take into account the views of residents when making this decision.
Eva Bokrosova who has lived on the estate since 2009, attended the first group 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.
She 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.
Ugo Hayter from the human rights team at Leigh Day, said:
“We believe this decision is unlawful as it does not take into consideration the opinions of the vast majority of the residents on the estate who have made it clear that they favoured refurbishment over demolition.
“The residents have fought 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 said:
“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 2014, they decided to demolish our homes.
“As a community we are extremely pleased that the decision of the Council will now be judicially reviewed in the High Court.”