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.
Too often this century, council homes have been replaced by private developments, full of homes that are unaffordable for most people, after the promise of units for social rent mysteriously vanishes as the years of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.
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.
- Emma Gardiner works at the South Norwood Community Kitchen, which has offered support and advice to many residents living on Regina Road and in the wider community. Find out more about SNCK, how to donate or volunteer by clicking here
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