Cressingham Gardens residents have condemned Lambeth council’s rejection of their “People’s Plan” for the estate – just five working days after receiving its 326 pages – as “strewn with errors, distortions and omissions”.
Resident Andy Plant said the decision to demolish and “regenerate” the estate that is due to be endorsed by the council cabinet next Monday, (21 March) was likely to be “Labour Lambeth’s Iraq war”.
In a detailed response (PDF download) the residents say that the council’s Labour leadership:
- Has shown “complete contempt” for the residents
- Will create “chaos, misery and financial difficulty” and destroy a community
- Has shown “closed-mindedness” with a plan that is “full of holes” that are “plain for all to see”
- Will set rents for “regenerated” homes at unaffordable levels, contravening its own targets
- Will impose rent rises of around 25% for existing tenants.
“Were Lambeth to be honest, it would admit that the preferred option of demolition is the unworkable choice, yet it chooses to gloss over its own errors, while fabricating flaws in the residents’ proposal,” said Plant.
For example, the council had not responded to a residents’ request to meet a neutral third party to cover “commercially sensitive” funding discussions.
The residents described as “complete misrepresentation” the claim made in its news release of last Friday evening that their plan relies on funding from the council’s housing revenue account.
They also accuse the council of misrepresentation of other aspects of their plan.
Responding to the council’s own plan, the residents say there are too many flaws to mention in a short response and highlight what they say are ten of them.
These include the accusation that the council’s plan will not achieve a positive “net present value” (NPV) over 60 years, while the residents’ plan would achieve a positive value over just 30.
The residents say that “Homes for Lambeth”, the private “special vehicle” set up by the council to escape central government regulation preventing it from regenerating its housing stock, would not be able to attract external funding with a negative NPV.
They also point out that the last (coalition) government had said that it would not allow local authorities to use special vehicles like Homes for Lambeth.
On 15 March last year, then housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “The government is aware that some authorities may be using their general power of competence under the Localism Act 2011 to develop new social or affordable housing and accounting for that stock in its general fund.
“Accounting for stock in this way is not in line with government policy and if councils continue to develop social or affordable stock which they fail to account for within the housing revenue account the secretary of state will consider issuing a direction under section 74 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to bring that stock into the housing revenue account.”
The residents say the additional homes resulting from demolition and rebuilding will be largely “unaffordable”, contravening the council’s own target strategy of 60 per cent affordable (of which 100% of should be council rent levels) in regeneration schemes.
The market rents the council proposes to charge range from £345 a week for a one-bed flat, to £757 per week for a four-bed flat. Market sales prices: 1 bed flat £436k; 2 bed flat £610k; 3 bed flat £750k; 4 bed flat £863k).
The People’s Plan exceeds this target with 90% genuinely affordable homes (all at council rent levels).
The residents say the “affordable” additional homes in the council’s demolition plan involve large rent increases (for the majority of tenants they are forecasted at 23%-25%.
They say the council will not set the rents of new one- and two-bedroom homes at council rent levels, but at the much higher local area housing allowance (LAHA), levels. They believe this is designed to exploit housing benefit/local housing allowance limits and would have the effect of making Lambeth needlessly more reliant on benefits. The council is to charge LAHA levels for all extra one-bedroom flats at £204 a week and two-bedroom homes at £265 a week.