Tenant wins High Court legal battle against Lambeth Council over decision to remove options in public consultation over future of Cressingham Gardens estate

The High Court has found Lambeth Council acted unlawfully when it removed options from a public consultation over plans to redevelop the Cressingham Gardens estate in Lambeth, South London.

Lambeth Council began a consultation process with tenants of the Estate in November 2014, by setting up sub-groups to consider resident management options; wellbeing; green retrofitting; financial modelling; and test of opinion and a series of workshops to obtain the residents’ views on the future of the estate.

It proposed 5 options to be consulted on, options 1 - 3 concerned refurbishment and options 4 and 5 were part and full demolition.

However, in March 2015, before the sub-group’s reports had been fed back to the Council, options 1- 3, the refurbishment options, had been removed by the Council.

The judgment handed down today, following a two-day High Court hearing earlier this month, was brought by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of Eva Bokrosova, who has lived on the estate since 2009.

Today’s judgment by Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing DBE ruled that the decision to remove options 1, 2 and 3 from the consultation was unlawful.

Ugo Hayter from the human rights team at Leigh Day, said: “We are very pleased with this judgment from the High Court.

“The decision by Lambeth Council did 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.

“This is a clear lesson in how not to conduct a consultation.

“The judge has made it clear that all options are now back on the table and Lambeth Council must re-consult in relation to the refurbishment options and the redevelopment options. We sincerely hope that Lambeth now does this, on a fresh and open-minded basis.”

Background

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 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.”