BY JULIA GREGORY
Local Democracy Reporter
Residents are celebrating after a housing association announced it is spending £37million on renovating a historic “run-down” estate it once planned to demolish.
Clarion Housing is now giving four empty blocks a complete makeover, and will develop
plans with residents on the 106-year-old estate.
It said at least 80 homes will be for social rent and it was giving priority to people who already live in Sutton Dwellings – some of them for decades.
The remaining 303 flats on the Chelsea estate will get new kitchens and bathrooms and the outside areas will also be improved.
Clarion’s chief executive Clare Miller said the plans would “modernise the existing homes and the estate as a whole, benefiting not just today’s residents but future generations.
She said: “By delivering at least 80 new social rented homes, we are also able to play a key role in helping to address the borough’s acute shortage of genuinely affordable housing.”
Sarah Brown (pictured above), who has lived on the estate for 54 years, said: “We are just pleased that it is going to get done up and we are going to get new kitchens and bathrooms.
They have to do something now because it is run-down. It’s been going on for a very long time.”
Last year she faced a nail-biting wait for the planning inspectors’ decision after Clarion appealed when Kensington and Chelsea council turned down its plans to demolish 15 blocks of flats on the estate and replace them.
It had planned to plough cash from selling some new homes into building social homes on the estate.
Ms Brown spoke at the week-long inquiry and described how her parents regretted leaving after residents staged a 10-year campaign to stop the scheme.
Councillor Ian Henderson, who chairs the residents’ association, said: “To many residents on the Sutton estate and surrounding areas this announcement is a welcome
relief after 10 years of campaigning to ensure there is no loss of social housing in Chelsea.
“Residents welcome the change of approach from the board at Clarion and are looking forward to meaningful discussions on the refurbishment of the estate which, to date, has not happened.”
Clarion Housing lost a planning appeal to knock down the Sutton estate, which was built by philanthropist William Sutton for working people.
It had originally wanted to build 270 homes for rent, with 96 for sale on the open market.
The housing association’s plans for the Cale Street estate were turned down by Kensington and Chelsea council in 2016, and the planning inspector rejected its appeal last December.
The inspector said the plan would see a loss of much-needed social housing.
By that time many residents had moved out – some because they were concerned about the future.
There were four empty blocks which the housing association said did not meet modern standards.
Residents and politicians from all parties staged a year-long campaign against Clarion’s initial scheme, and recruited celebrity supporters including Chelsea resident actress Felicity Kendal and Labour campaigner and comedian Eddie Izzard.
Kensington and Chelsea council’s deputy leader Councillor Kim Taylor-Smith welcomed the news. He said: “There is a housing crisis in London and we can’t fix it alone.
“That’s why Clarion’s announcement is so heartening. A home on an exceptional estate which has a real sense of community will make a huge difference to many families’ lives.
I hope Clarion’s commitment will encourage other housing associations and developers to work with us to provide more social housing in the borough.”
Cllr Taylor-Smith has responsibility for housing and the Sutton estate is in his Stanley ward.
Earlier this year, Clarion scrapped new plans to demolish four blocks on the estate.
The council expanded a conservation area in Chelsea which would have made it harder to knock down the estate and the neighbouring Pond Street estate.
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