Life better on estate now drug dealers have moved on

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

The last residents on an estate due to be bulldozed say life there is better than ever now the drug dealers have moved out.

People on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark say it has never been safer as nightmare neighbours who used to cause chaos have left.

Southwark council is rebuilding the vast 1970s council housing complex which, at its peak, stretched across 28 hectares – the same size as 40 football pitches.

A total of 4,200 homes will be constructed to replace the 2,758 on the original estate. The rebuild started in 2010 and is expected to take more than 20 years.

Most former residents have now left. The doors to their former flats are sealed off underneath metal sheets.

But a few families in temporary accommodation remain. They say the estate, once called “hell’s waiting room” by ex-Tory leader Michael Howard due to its bad reputation, has improved.

Mum-of-three Frede Koroma has been living in temporary accommodation on the estate for three years.

She said there was less trouble now that most people had left. The 25-year-old said: “It’s really up and down living here.

“Sometimes you get the drug dealers and trouble from kids but it has really calmed down as there are less people than when I first moved in here.”

“I used to live in Camberwell in a hostel and it’s better than that, but every other day there’s one fight or another, people getting stabbed and stuff. They’ve got CCTV around and there are community officers who will come around and check.”

Fellow mum Habiba Elmi, 24, has lived in two different temporary flats on the estate in Walworth.

She said there were problems with drugs when she first arrived four years ago but these had disappeared since moving to her second flat.

Ms Elmi said: “There used to be lots of drug problems when I lived in the first flat here but since moving to the other one it’s a lot better.

“It’s a nice area but it was a bit loud a couple of years ago. It has got quieter because I feel like people are leaving.”

Despite the estate’s reputation for crime, 73 per cent of residents voted against rebuilding it in a 2001 ballot.

Piers Corbyn, whose torn anti-vax election posters are stuck to some of the outside walls, campaigned with residents against the plans.

Southwark council said there were problems with the estate’s buildings and design that would make refurbishing it too expensive.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “More than 4,200 new homes are being built on the Aylesbury estate in phases, which allows residents to move within their estate. We always want to make best use of any space that is temporarily available between phases.

“With over 16,500 households on our waiting list for a council home, it makes sense to use the homes we have available temporarily for people in desperate need of housing.

“We are glad to hear the positive feedback from some residents and will continue to address any ongoing issues through our dedicated teams on the estate and our close working with the police, including joint operations to reduce crime.

“We understand why there might be some confusion among residents and we will be updating them about next steps with the redevelopment soon. We thank them for their continued patience and understanding.”

Pictured top: Habiba Elmi (Picture: Robert Firth)




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