10-year campaign by locals wins reprieve for Central Hill Estate

Plans by a labour-controlled south London council to bulldoze a residential estate have been binned, after a decade-long campaign by locals.

Reprieve: the Central Hill Estate, Crystal Palace, has been saved after a decade-long residents’ campaign. Pic: Lambeth Greens

Lambeth Council has paused the redevelopment of Central Hill and two other estates after a critical report recommended a “fundamental reset” to the way it handles the long-running projects.

Lambeth said it was now planning to hold further consultation with residents on the 450-home estate near Crystal Palace, “looking at different viable options ranging from refurbishment all the way through to full redevelopment”.

The council had planned to knock down the Rosemary Stjernstedt and Lambeth Borough Architects Department-designed estate, where homes are plagued with damp, mould and accessibility problems, replacing it with 1,200 new properties. Some 318 of the homes on the estate are currently social rent.

But residents have long argued against demolition, claiming that the homes on the complicated, sloping site are structurally sound and simply need proper refurbishment and upkeep.

Lambeth Council was where Steve Reed, now the Blairite MP for Croydon North, was council leader until 2012. One of the MP’s parliamentary aides, Matthew Bennett, later became the council cabinet member responsible for housing. Bennett stood down as a councillor last year.

Binned: Lambeth’s private housing company

Lambeth Council first commissioned architects to draw up plans for Central Hill Estate in 2014. In 2017, they abandoned this scheme as too expensive and said they wanted to redevelop the site. One building on the estate, Truslove House, was demolished in November 2021.

Redevelopment and demolition on the architecturally-acclaimed Cressingham Gardens and the Fenwick Estate have also been stopped. Lambeth has, belatedly, started a public consultation on these and three other estates, including Fenwick, Knight’s Walk, South Lambeth, and Westbury.

The move follows the publication last November of the highly critical Kerslake Review into the running of its housing development company, Homes for Lambeth.

Lambeth is winding up HfL after Sir Bob Kerslake’s review described its performance as “very poor” and recommended a “fundamental reset to the council’s approach”.

HfL was a flagship endeavour established in 2017 with a business model similar in many respects to Croydon’s Brick by Brick, the failed company which did much to bankrupt the borough without ever delivering the volume of social housing for which there is such demand.

The Kerslake Review said Lambeth would have to ballot residents formally on their preferred way forward in order to get funding from the Greater London Authority.

“Residents on these estates have always had the best ideas for how to improve them in ways that don’t demolish their homes and blight the area for years on end,” Sian Berry, the Green Party’s London Assembly Member, told the Architects Journal.

“Lambeth Council’s next steps must be to give up on demolition, empower residents to manage their own estates, and support them to plan any improvements needed for themselves.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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