By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
The first stage of a massive and controversial estate regeneration were approved last week – but opponents say it is an ill-thought-out and piecemeal project.
Lambeth’s planning committee on February 9 approved demolition of 12 homes in Roper’s Walk in Cressingham Gardens estate to build 20 flats.
The development in Tulse Hill was agreed, despite concerns about slicing an estate into isolated pockets and the lack of a masterplan.
Opponents say the scheme has been “salami sliced” – divided into smaller developments to avoid putting the whole scheme forward at once, which could be unlawful or difficult to do.
Homes for Lambeth, the council’s wholly-owned housing company in charge of estate redevelopments, denies this, claiming the homes are in poor condition so should be redeveloped ahead of the rest of the estate.
The development, which will be part three and part four-storeys high, is set to be 100 per cent affordable – 14 at social rent and six shared ownership.
The scheme is a departure from the local plan because four trees will be cut down, including an English Oak.
But planning officers said they were “satisfied that the substantial benefits of the proposal could not be delivered without the removal of these trees”.
The development will also result in the loss of amenity space, but officers said the local plan allows for this “where significant regeneration and community benefits would be achieved and appropriate compensatory provision for the loss of open space is made”.
A communal garden and a playground are proposed for the development, while nine trees are expected to planted.
Various local groups objected to the plans, while the application received about 400 objections and two comments of support.
Lawrence Marsh, the vice chair of the Herne Society, objected at the meeting, also speaking on behalf of the Brixton Society, Friends of Brockwell Park, Brockwell Park Community Partners, and the Brixton Neighbourhood Forum.
He said Cressingham Gardens Estate is an “especially fine example of the enlightened standards used in social housing when Ted Hollamby was Lambeth’s borough architect”.
“To demolish a significant part of the estate and replace it with a larger block lacking any particular distinction plainly goes against Lameth’s own policy regarding preservation of heritage assets.
“Such destruction cannot reasonably be justified. Demolishing and redeveloping part of the estate before a masterplan has been published and consulted on for the whole estate is incorehert development.
“It appears to be a cynical attempt to create a precedent that will then be used to justify larger and taller blocks on the rest of the estate,” he said.
Mr Marsh said Roper’s Walk should be retrofitted, not demolished and rebuilt, if the council’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2030 is to succeed.
Principle planning officer Kate Hayler denied there would be any impact on the heritage assets in the area, including the Grade II listed park and church.
Mariane Nwagboso spoke on behalf of an elderly resident of Roper’s Walk, who has lived there since 1988.
She said: “I am 83-years-old and do not wish to move out of my home, where all of my memories are and my community.”
It emerged that the resident, Nieves Potimas, has no access to the internet and was unable to access the application documents online – she feels the council failed to effectively consult her.
“I want to stay in my home that’s suited to my age and health needs. I need the support of my community for everyday tasks and the current style of architecture of Cressingham Gardens promotes and facilitates community support.
“Being stuck in an apartment block will leave me completely isolated and moving away is not an option,” she said.
Andrew Plant spoke on behalf of residents on the estate and said the development would run the risk of creating anti-social hotspots.
He said: “There is so much wrong with this application that justice can’t be done in two minutes.
“Many residents have been denied a voice through the shoddiness of the consultation.”
Mr Plant also criticised the lack of an estate masterplan.
Homes for Lambeth, behind the redevelopment of Cressingham Gardens, has so far failed to commission anyone to create a masterplan.
The MP for Streatham, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, spoke against the application on behalf of her consituents.
She said: “There is a strong feeling that this application goes against residents’ aspirations for the estate.”
The MP said she had received various objections about the tress, the height and mass of the proposals, and residents being put into temporary accommodation out of the borough when work starts.
“But mostly the concern is around the lack of a masterplan for the entire estate. People believe this is salami slicing and a way in which developers find a way to get around an environmental impact assessments,” Ms Ribeiro-Addy said.
The sound on the video dropped on when two supporters of the scheme were speaking, but the architect for the scheme, Lee Davies, could be heard.
He said: “It is a high quality, exemplar housing design that will deliver much needed affordable housing.
“The proposed design is sensitive to the surrounding context […] it is just over two metres higher than the existing building.”
Committee members voted to approve the application six to one.
Cllr Becca Thackray said she would prefer that the decision was referred.
“I feel there’s lots unanswered, particularly about biodiversity and I’m very uncomfortable about the answers I’ve got about the general scheme that this fits into.
“We’ve heard that the masterplan will emerge […] and that we should see it on its own merits, but I can’t see how we can fully assess this.”
Fellow Green, Cllr Pete Elliott, who represents Gipsy Hill, said: “Homes for Lambeth needs to learn from their mistakes. The wellbeing of Lambeth’s residents has again been completely neglected by the developer. Many residents on the estate are in at-risk groups from the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction on the Westbury estate and South Lambeth Estate has resulted in residents being hospitalised as a result of noise and air pollution.
“Residents made alternative proposals through the ‘People’s Plan’ that would deliver more council housing than the council is proposing yet these proposals were rubbished by the council when they should have
worked with residents to find agreeable solutions.”
But other members did not agree with the Greens.
Cllr Joanne Simpson said the report was comprehensive and that her main concerns were the loss of the trees and loss of amenity space.
But she said: “There is a condition which means that no development can take place at all on the site until it is demonstrated with evidence that there will a biodiversity net gain, which addresses concerns.”
Members put a lot of stock into the new affordable housing that would be provided and felt their concerns, including about biodiversity and amenity space, were eased.
Labour’s Cllr Mohammed Seedat said: “It’s welcome that there are actually family-sized units in the development – it’s not often we have a development that’s focused as much on [families as it is on couples].”
Cllr Malcolm Clark approved the plans, but said residents should feel included in the plans and warned against future salami slicing.
On Cllr Thackray’s request toads were added to a condition that requires a bat and bird survey be undertaken before work is down.
Pictured top: Houses on Roper’s Walk
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