Residents of Cressingham Gardens have been told by the High Court that they can mount a second legal challenge to Lambeth council’s plans to demolish and redevelop the housing estate that overlooks Brockwell Park.
The successful applicant described the council’s behaviour as “cavalier” and of treating the estate and its residents as if they were part of a “game of Monopoly”.
Lambeth council said it would present its case at the review – expected to take place towards the end of this year – and that its plans, which it had been consulting on since 2012, would mean 158 extra new homes on the redeveloped estate. Of these, 47% would be “affordable”.
Mrs Justice Juliet May agreed to the request of Andy Plant, a resident of the estate, for a judicial review of the council’s decision.
He had argued that the council’s decision to demolish the estate is unfair and unlawful on four grounds.
- The council wrongly included in its calculations a £7.5m loan to the company it has set up to undertake the redevelopment. If it had been included, the council’s preferred demolition option would have failed its own “must achieve” criteria.
- The council’s own cabinet members had been misled about a “People’s Plan” for the estate drawn up by residents. Alternatively, Mr Plant argued, members of the cabinet failed “conscientiously to take into account” key aspects of key aspects of the People’s Plan.
- The council had failed to provide up-to-date data about the council’s housing finances to either the people being consulted or the cabinet members.
- The council plans breach Mr Plant’s “right to property” under Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, combined with his “right to respect for a home”, by removing his existing “right to buy” contrary to current government policy.
Lambeth has 35 days from the judge’s decision last Friday to file a detailed defence.
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “We will present our case explaining why we believe we have acted lawfully in respect of the cabinet decision on the redevelopment of the Cressingham Gardens estate.
“Lambeth council cabinet endorsed the proposal to redevelop Cressingham Gardens in March this year, following consultation with residents, as they judged that it represented the best option for the future of the estate.
“The council began the process of consulting residents over the future of the estate in 2012, amid complaints that a number of properties were in poor condition. It considered options ranging from refurbishment to full redevelopment.
“The proposed redevelopment would see all the 306 properties on the estate replaced with a minimum of 464 new homes. Of the 158 extra homes, 47% would be affordable, including at least 27 extra family-sized homes at council rent.”
Lawyers from Cressingham Gardens residents are also preparing to apply for an injunction preventing Lambeth council from taking further steps and committing more’ money to the demolition of the estate. This case is expected to be heard by the end of September.
Acting for Mr Plant, Rowan Smith, a human rights solicitor at the firm Leigh Day, said: “We are encouraged by Mrs Justice May’s decision to allow full scrutiny of Lambeth council’s decision-making on the future of the Cressingham Gardens Estate, albeit that we would have preferred for Lambeth council to have made a lawful decision at the outset.
“Despite resistance from Lambeth council, the fact that permission was granted on all four grounds demonstrates the arguability of the arguments put forward by Mr Plant in this and confirms that there is indeed a case to be answered.”
Mr Plant commented: “Once again, residents of Cressingham Gardens were dealt an unfair blow.
“It’s very sad that we’ve had to take this step, but it is in response to what we see as cavalier behaviour on the part of Lambeth councillors and officers, where they seemingly treat public property as if it’s part of a game of Monopoly.
“I can see for myself that their privatisation plans have the potential to devastate the lives of real people (tenants and homeowners), and are likely to jeopardise the future of true council housing in the borough for generations to come whilst doing almost nothing to help those on the housing waiting list.
“On the contrary, many of our residents might well find themselves unable to find secure housing locally as a result.”
Last November another resident of the estate, Eva Bokrosova, successfully applied for a judicial review that found Lambeth had unfairly dropped refurbishment options from its consultation on the future of the estate.
Residents say their “People’s Plan” – a substantial document compiled by residents including Mr Plant and architects – would not only save most of the existing buildings through refurbishment, but also increase the number of council-rented homes by 34. They say the council’s proposals only include 27 extra homes at council rent levels.
The cost of the council’s plan is projected to exceed £100 million, they say, while theirs would cost a fraction of this and keep the estate in public ownership.
The council’s plan involves the creation of a private company that would be used to raise funds from private investors to redevelop the estate.
Cressingham Gardens is one is six Lambeth estates the council has earmarked for “regeneration” to create more and better homes. The council says that it would cost at least £9.4m to bring the estate up to its “Lambeth Housing Standard” and that this was not affordable because of legal restraints on the way councils can use money that they generate from housing.
It says that, under its plans to redevelop Cressingham Gardens, “all existing council tenants would get a new home, at council rent levels, with a lifetime tenancy – meaning there would be no loss of social housing”.
Cressingham residents’ full story is on their website.