MP candidates debate bridge repairs and stalled estate regeneration at general election hustings

By Charlotte Lillywhite, Local Democracy Reporter

MP candidates described the state of a council estate and historic bridge as “an embarrassment” and “left to rot” during a general election hustings.

Candidates battling to become the next MP for Putney decried the condition of Hammersmith Bridge and Alton Estate during a hustings at St. Mary’s Church on June 18. During the hustings each candidate was grilled on how they would tackle key local issues including housing, transport and empty shops.

Labour’s Fleur Anderson, Putney’s MP in 2019, took the stage, along with the Conservative’s Lee Roberts, Lib Dems’ Kieren McCarthy, Green’s Fergal McEntee, Workers Party’s Heiko Khoo and Reform UK’s Peter Hunter.

The five-year closure of Hammersmith Bridge to vehicles sparked a fiery debate between candidates as they disagreed on a reopening.

Ms Anderson said Putney had been plunged into ‘chaos’ by the closure and called on the Government to approve Hammersmith and Fulham council’s business case to repair it.

Mr McCarthy also said the government would need to fund the bridge repairs, estimated to cost £250million, and pledged to reopen it within a year if elected.

Mr Roberts, however, called for Transport for London (TfL) to take charge of repairing the bridge, while Mr Hunter said TfL and the Government should jointly sort it out.

Alton Estate in Roehampton (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Mr McEntee told residents he would instead prioritise getting drivers to ditch their cars for public transport as the bridge is already open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Mr Khoo suggested a new bridge next to the existing crossing would ‘immediately resolve the problem’ before addressing the repairs.

The candidates also discussed the long-awaited regeneration of the Alton Estate in Roehampton.

Plans under Wandsworth council’s old Conservative administration, drawn up in 2014, would have seen 288 homes on the estate demolished for 1,108 new homes, including 261 affordable homes. But, Labour scrapped the plans when it took control of the authority in 2022, arguing they did not include enough council homes, to put together a new scheme.

Mr McCarthy said furious residents have been ‘treated appallingly for 20 years’ as he raised concerns their views have not been properly considered. “It was the estate of the future,” he said. “It’s been left to rot and it’s an embarrassment.”

Ms Anderson slammed the old Conservative plans as failing to consider the whole area. She said the Labour council has now put together the ‘right plan’ for the Alton Estate, which include homes, shops, community spaces and transport.

Mr Roberts said the old Conservative scheme needed improvement, but accused Labour of scrapping it ‘for pure ideology’. He called for the old plans to be reinstated.

Mr McEntee, Mr Hunter and Mr Khoo both argued that listening to residents and allowing them to tell the council what they want for the estate is most important.

Pictured top: Putney general election hustings on June 18 (Picture: Charlotte Lillywhite)

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