This is council’s chance to do more than just the bare minimum

CROYDON COMMENTARY: After living in some of the worst housing conditions ever encountered, residents of Regina Road flats have voted for their estate to be demolished, on a promise from the council that at least the same number of social housing homes will be built in the resulting redevelopment.
EMMA GARDINER, pictured right, says this is the council’s big chance to do the decent thing and deliver on its promises

Now that Regina Road residents, including those living in the nearby low-rise buildings in South Norwood as well as the notorious tower blocks, have voted for their homes to be demolished and rebuilt, Croydon Council has a choice: take this once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead a new era of council-led regeneration that actually does as promised and provide social rented housing homes as part of development, or become just another part of the dire tale of lost council estates in the capital.

Coming down: All three blocks of flats at Regina Road are to be demolished. What happens to residents in the meantime remains unclear

Too often this century, council homes have been replaced by private developments, full of homes that are unaffordable for most people, after the promise of units for social rent mysteriously vanishes as the years of planning and development drag on.

The ballot of Regina Road residents was undoubtedly influenced by the council’s promise to replace all the social housing in the area with like-for-like council homes. But how do ordinary people, the residents of South Norwood and Croydon generally, ensure that the council keeps to even that modest promise?

Croydon Council held a meeting after the Regina Road ballot results were published, with only thin amount of information to give to residents aside from the actual result of the ballot, which they all knew anyway.

Despite numerous requests over the past two years from the Regina Road Residents’ Support Group for the provision of childcare at such meetings, none was provided. Given that the meeting was held during half-term, parents with kids in tow struggled to hear the council’s speakers above the inevitable mumblings in the room.

Croydon’s Mayor came to speak, but he had another, ahem, meeting, to go off to for 7pm.

Council representatives confirmed that first to be demolished would be the red block, as featured on ITV News back in 2021 with raining ceilings and wall-to-wall black mould.

Hard lives: the flats in Regina Road have provided badly inadequate homes

This, the residents were told, is so that they can get a good look at the issues within the block and become better-informed when planning the future of the other dozen-or-so similar, Wates-built blocks across the borough.

They’ve definitely not made this choice to look good in the press and to the public. There’s definitely another reason why they decided not to pull down the green block first, which was found to be in the worst condition of the three Regina Road towers in the independent ARC report commissioned by the council in 2021.

The council plan is that each block will be taken down separately, and different phases of the development would be built at different times.

This sent the crowd into full-on “WTF!” mode, as the council seemed to suggest that any residents wishing to move into the new development would have to stay on the site for the duration of the redevelopment, which at a minimum would be two years.

Residents’ concerns centred on how noisy and dusty and generally unpleasant it would be to remain on site. Questions were also raised regarding the fate of the nursery during that time, and whether children who stay on Regina Road would be given nursery places elsewhere.

There was also dismay from residents of the green block, knowing that if they want to stay for the new flats they will have to continue living in appalling conditions for at least two years, probably more.

We don’t yet know how many residents want to stay on the site, but an estimate based on the mood of the meeting is that it will be far less now that they know they will have to live on a building site in uninhabitable flats for years in order to continue to be a resident at Regina Road.

The truth is, if current residents decide to move off the estate for good it will make it much easier for the council and whoever become their development “partners” – who will be in it to maximise profit – to do what they want.

It will be easier to quietly remove the requirement of replacing all the council homes, easier to pay no attention to the residents voices when it comes to design of the new units, and easier to make decisions based on economic impact only.

I’m actually rooting for you to do the right thing, Croydon. Everyone else seems to think I’m living in cloud cuckoo land if I believe you’re going to keep to your promise of replacing all the social units at Regina Road.

This is your big chance to prove them wrong.

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11 Responses to This is council’s chance to do more than just the bare minimum

  1. Laurence Fisher says:

    These system-build flats really only had a lifespan of 50 years when first built. And for those to remember the goings-on at blocks like Ronan Point, not all, in fact most, were not built properly. Lacking metal bolts in panels, lack of or no floor ties and the first signs of those issues was usually damp, cracks between panels etc. It would be very interesting to see how well/how badly these Regina Rd flats were built if indeed they can take them down panel-by-panel instead of blast-down. The construction issues are not the council of today’s fault frankly, but as rightly pointed out in this article, it is what happens now by them onwards which is the key. Surely they can’t balls-this up…?
    Those who may like to see how bad they may be, have a look on youtube at an absolutely superb 1984 documentary titled The Great British Housing Disaster, by Adam Curtis. Bring back the houses, the streets, the gardens, the safe, pretty, functional and long-lasting homes human beings rightfully need, expect and deserve. The 1960s ‘utopia’ (aka hell) is over for those who live in these concrete rabbit hutches.

    • Lewis White says:

      Very good idea from Laurence Fisher !
      If only the council would do the panel-by panel deconstruction, and have a qualified building surveyor and structural engineer standing by to see why the building leaked…. and how many bolts are holding it together.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Consider this. A particular development that they called a ‘perfectly legal development ‘ that was noted as a high quality applcation. A wealth of evidence submittted to Croydon from 2018 – 2021 about what transpired to be anything but high quality. no investigation – no visits to site by this Council. Independent Building Inspector passed the matters back to Croydon Council for enforcement. Owner t had the flats occupied despite it being against the Conditions of the original decision. It is still under enforcement and wait for it – retrospective planning conditions. But it is still inhabited with leaking roof onto electrics sloping floors no effective soundproofing rooms adjoining that conflict – (bedrooms beside utility and common spaces without any sound proffing black mould design flaws and with umteen building control infringements totally ignored along with the original planning conditions. (The builder in front of Developer and was recorded on iPhone stating on the first day in public ”We are not doing that – the Council won’t do anything anyway” as he chucked the code and conditions into the on-site skip).
      Consider that Ms Shifa Musfafa in writing agreed to an investigation before she was stood own. This was emailed to Ms Cheesebrough, Kerswell stood Ms Mustafa down, Cheeesbrough has since then never responded. Townsend dealt with the complaint which included her actually discharging the conditions withouth ever checking they had been met (they had not) and her response of her investigation into the complaint about her team and her own actions speaks for itself. Kerswell was also delivered a letter outlining the issues to security and witnessed which was never acknowledged not answered.
      Even Planning enforcement emails saying one must be patient. but never discloses what everyone already knows – that somehow a three bedroom flat became a four bedroom all without any intervention.

      That is the team you are hoping will do the right thing?

      Frankly that lot as a planning enforcement and building control department appear to be out of their depth, out of resource, unable to effectively to prevent wrongs, unable to do anything diligently and are reliant on developers to submit data honestly and are not equipped to check and ahve poor regulations and codes that are apparantly unenforceable.
      All of this is may not be a persons individual fault or even a team, especially if the organisation has made their roles impossible to fulfill.

      But the honesty, integrity and accuracy is down to those individuals. That is the most serious issue.
      Sitting in front of a Judge and being judged as covering matters up and being less than factual should be a disciplinary and performance issue for any public servant. Should it not?

  2. Lewis White says:

    This could be the chance of a lifetime to have a new development that is so well insulated, and equipped with solar panels, and heat pumps, that the amount of energy needed to heat a home for a whole year is very low. The designers need to build in safeguards against overheating and condensation too.

    A year or so ago I attended an interesting conference where various housing associations presented ther own recent developments designed to allow for the full range of age groups from 0 to 100, and including one bed flats for singletons, and houses for bigger families. These developments not only looked good, but were green, in all senses of the word. There were some developments which had flats and housed, all laid out in nicely landscaped settings, some with landscaped courtyards which gave residents the opportunity to have their own small garden (for sitting out, and raising flowers or veg,) plus communally-maintained landscaping , and some garden plots and wildlife-sheltering / feeding areas. There were children’s play items and sand pits– far more interesting than a normal development. Secure too, as the design was arranged round resident-only courtyards.

    I hope that the residents are given a few choices, with some really good architects and other design experts who know how to design a new and good development that creates real homes for a diversity of residents, not just for a few age groups. Plus bin stores that are beautiful, not eyesores. Bin stores that take old furniture and mattresses in designed places, and which are easy to use and manage…. not dumps.

    I also hope that the council manage it and maintain it well. That boils down to cash and commitment. The absence of both is a recipe for dissappointment, disaffection, and then, dereliction, and decline. Regna Road residents have suffered all these. They deserve something not only new, but sustainable and socially good to live in for many, happy years.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    Here is another ask of Croydon Council. Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and then stick to it no matter what happens. It is not difficult.

    If you feel you are unable to do so – leave resign go away – and let someone who can do so.

  4. Peter Underwood says:

    It is disgraceful that Croydon Council are insisting that people have to continue living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions for years if they want to get one of the new properties. A suspicious person could believe that this is a deliberate plan to get social housing residents out so they can offer the new properties to private renters for more money.

  5. Laurence Fisher says:

    There will be more than plaster, wood and concrete in that dust cloud. 1960s building most certainly riddled with asbestos. Surely, therefore, the idea of staying put in close proximity would be an illegal one. At the very least a bloody dangerous choice?

    • Lewis White says:

      Asbestos– a very good point.

      The Council need to get this demolition right. That means assuming that there is asbestos, and specifying the project accordingly– to avoid those nasty — “unforseen costs” that can cost many, many hundreds of £1000’s if the council forgets to put the right clauses and provisional sums in the tender.

      Not an easy job, to predict this. I hope that they get some decent consultants on board sooner rather than later.

      Of course, air tests before during and after the demolition (which has to be dismantling, not a blow it up job) are essential to monitor presence of asbestos particles in the air.

      It’s not going to be cheap, if done properly.

  6. Laurence Fisher says:

    What makes me very sad about all this, is it took, ultimately, a television crew and an exposure on national telly for them to deal with these blocks – one of many croydon hot potatoes – before they had to do something. Now, it seems they still don’t care and will continue to piss on these tenants from an enormous height for years under the pretence of a so-called ‘policy’ How come the only unprotected species is the human one?

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Any TV Channel could fill a years schedules of reality TV looking at the impacts of Croydon Council actions.

      But perhaps weekly viewings of what has happened is happening on National TV will wake the Country up to the ytpe of environment that may be coming to them.
      After all this is a clear systemic issue.

      Croydon is just exacerbated by its own inadequacies that IC has so well documented.

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