After a year-long, rear-guard action from residents of a council-built estate on the Croydon-Lambeth borough boundary, Truslove House and the mature trees in the grounds around it have in the past week been bulldozed completely.
Lambeth Council has been accused of an act of “environmental vandalism”.
And now locals angry at the destruction of their community for the benefit of private developers want to drag Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Croydon North, into the dispute with Lambeth Council.
Before becoming a Croydon MP, Reed was the leader of Lambeth Council, under whom many of the policies of estate destruction were instigated. Reed is now Labour’s shadow minister for local government. Lambeth is a Labour-run council.
Protesters camped in and around Truslove House a year ago, despite covid and the wet winter weather, in efforts to thwart the council’s demolition gangs. But ultimately the council had its way.
Residents on Central Hill estate in Upper Norwood say that Lambeth could have refurbished Truslove House and other residential blocks, but that the council refused to do so because their plans involved multi-million-pound private developments.
Central Hill residents, and those living at Cressingham Gardens, have been refused the estate referendum to which they are entitled ahead of any redevelopment, under planning rules laid down by London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The council claims that the regeneration of Central Hill estate, along with five other estates in the borough, will help to ease the housing crisis. But residents expect more than half of the new homes built to be sold off at sky-high market rates.
An official council report in the summer effectively admitted that Lambeth is evicting its own council tenants from their homes, without having any alternative accommodation to provide for them.
“Lambeth’s ambitious regeneration programme will not deliver new homes for some time, and in the meantime there is a short-term impact on supply as properties are emptied ahead of development,” the report said.
Worried residents point across south London to Southwark, where similar “ambitious regeneration programmes” on the Aylesbury and Heygate estates involved the clearance of thousands of homes for social rent, replacing them with over-priced private housing in a vast exercise of “social cleansing”, under which private developers made massive profits from what had been public property.
Since Lambeth’s plans for Central Hill were confirmed in 2017, the council has pursued a policy of disinvestment in the buildings and community, in a deliberate attempt to drive residents out. “The council have run down the estate physically and verbally, and they’ve run down the community,” one protester said.
Lambeth Council maintained otherwise. “The proposals for Truslove House, on Roman Rise, which received planning permission in October 2020, are vital to our work to provide more affordable housing on the Central Hill Estate,” a spokesperson said. The council says that they are replacing a seven-room hostel with 31 affordable family homes – 22 at council level rent and nine going for unaffordable shared ownership.
The seven households in Truslove House were forced out last winter. These were all temporary accommodation residents who had no claim to a home on the new estate. Lambeth’s current council leader, Claire Holland, has said this week that all seven households were rehomed.
The broader picture across the Central Hill Estate shows that 320 council homes are to be demolished, with the council yet to decide how many additional properties will be provided, or when.
Opponents of the council project claim that it could be 20 years before the regeneration is completed. Homes for Lambeth, the development arm of Lambeth Council – a sort of Brick by Brick, but even more charmless – still has no master plan for the estate, four years after the idea was approved in 2017.
Homes for Lambeth claimed that Truslove House is “phase one” of their project.
This week, one Upper Norwood resident took the case for Truslove House to Croydon MP Reed.
“Truslove House has now been demolished, along with all the mature trees,” they wrote.
“I want to register my extreme disapproval and disgust at this act of vandalism.
“This was a historic building, of architectural value, and should have been refurbished and not demolished.
“Demolition is very bad for the environment. Making bricks and steel creates vast amounts of CO2, with cement alone causing 8 per cent of global emissions. The construction industry should reuse buildings.
“And to think that all this demolition was done during COP26. How short-sighted can you get?
“I find it shocking that Lambeth Labour want to make money from demolition of council homes. How many of these flats will be genuinely affordable? More likely many will end up as buy-to-lets or AirBnBs, owned by absentee landlords.
“[The council] should consider local people, what they want and need. There was a lot of local opposition to this, which was sadly just ignored and feels very undemocratic.”
Reed has failed to reply to his constituent.
Read more: Activists set up camp to fight against Central Hill demolition
Read more: Council deputy leader gets new job working for lobbyists
Read more: Coronavirus being used as ‘smokescreen’ for estate demolition
Read more: Lambeth is showing the way with destruction of five estates
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