‘We want to fight back’: residents occupy house to protest against demolition

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

Residents of an estate have held a protest against a housing association’s intentions to demolish their homes.

Last October, Bexley council approved plans for housing association Peabody to build up to 1,950 new homes in South Thamesmead, 35 per cent of which will be “affordable”.

However, residents of the Lesnes Estate have staged a protest to oppose their existing homes being knocked down by occupying an empty house in the area.

The residents stayed in the home for three nights from June 8 to June 11 to highlight the volume of empty houses on the estate that could still be used for those in need.

Adam Turk, 50, said he has lived as a tenant on the estate for 15 years.

Lesnes Estate campaigners and residents (Picture: Liam Scully)

Mr Turk said:  “The chances are that a lot of us are going to end up either outside London, which then poses the problem of paying lots of money to get into London for work, or going into property that’s in another state that’s been left to ruin.”

Mr Turk said it feels like Peabody “doesn’t care” about the residents on the estate, and has been involved in the occupational protest over the past weekend.

A Peabody spokesman said: “We want to ensure the community can stay together and have offered all Peabody tenants and resident homeowners on the estate a new home in the neighbouring new development. Homeowners will be able to move at no additional cost, as part of our shared equity offer. By living in new, more energy efficient homes, residents should also benefit from reduced energy bills.”

Peabody’s website states that a ballot in 2020 found that 70.2per cent of residents on the Lesnes Estate wanted the area included in Peabody’s wider plans for South Thamesmead, with 65.4per cent of residents taking part in the ballot.

Johnnel Olabhie, 56, has lived and owned a property on the estate for 20 years and said he was approached by the housing association to purchase his property in 2016.

He said: “They met me and what they were offering wasn’t very close to what I wanted. They wanted to buy and the process wasn’t too clear and it was kind of bullying.

“They deliberately made here uninhabitable, to make it a discomfort for people to live in, just because of the Elizabeth line.

“The estate has people above 60, 70 and 80, they are old. They don’t know where to go and they are really in a frustrated state.

“That is how we quickly got ourselves together to say, ‘You know what? We want to fight back’.”

A Peabody spokesperson told the LDRS: “As a not-for-profit housing association, our priority is to provide affordable housing and support local communities.

“We reinvest all income into providing homes and services and last year spent £113m on existing homes as well as building new ones.

“Our rents were £679million lower than the market in 2021 and 22 and last year we built more than 1,000 affordable homes, the majority for social rent.”

“The regeneration of South Thamesmead is already seeing us deliver brand new social homes for hundreds of local people, with the average rent for a 2-bed home being £101 a week.”

Bexley council has been approached for comment.

Pictured top: Johnnel Olabhie and Adam Turk infant of the occupied house in the estate (Picture: Liam Scully)

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