By Charles Harrison
Peckham residents fighting for the survival of their green space have been bolstered by other cancelled plans from Southwark council.
The 1.4 acre Flaxyard development site near Peckham High Street, known locally as Peckham Green, has been the focus on weekly protests which aim to stop plans to build 120 new council homes on the space.
The protestors were emboldened recently after the council made clear via Twitter that they had cancelled plans to develop nearby Sumner House.
“Since new office plans were cancelled, it seemed less and less likely that Sumner House would be sold,” Southwark Council stated on Twitter on June 14.
The protest group’s twitter shot back with: “why have you changed your plans to refurbish Sumner House for rich people?”
“Do you want to make it seem like you aren’t being as greedy when you take away Peckham Green?”
The council also decided on April 27 to pause development in Brenchley Gardens, Camberwell, after over a thousand residents signed a petition against it.
American comedian Lewis Schaffer, 64, who has been helping to organising the protests and who writes the @Peckham_Green twitter account, said: “they’re backed into a corner.
“Even if it’s just a delay, a delay is a win to a man on death row.”
In a recent twitter video, Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Cabinet Member for Council Homes and Homelessness, said: “It’s really important that we build new council homes.
“At the moment we’ve got 15,000 people waiting for a new home.”
Mr Schaffer responded to the video by saying: “At no point do they mention the wellbeing of council estates.
“They’ve forgotten about their core constituents.”
Residents say that Peckham Green is the only local green space for many council homes in the area, and is necessary for socialising and religious worship.
Despite the council’s changing plans, Mr Schaffer urged protestors not to get complacent.
“If we stop fighting, we will not win,” he said.
The planned work on Peckham Green is set to begin on August 9.
It is part of Southwark Council’s ambitious promise to build 11,000 new homes in the borough by 2043.
Residents will be protesting the Peckham Green development again this Saturday at 5pm.
Cllr Stephanie Cryan and one of our MPs Neil Coyle explaining a bit more about our council house building programme. Southwark is delivering 2500 new homes for the residents who need them, including these homes in William Cuffay House ⬇️⬇️⬇️@steviecryan @coyleneil pic.twitter.com/WiwvPKDjZU
— Southwark Labour (@SouthwarkLabour) June 24, 2021
A spokeswoman from Southwark council said: “Originally the council planned to build affordable housing on the Flaxyard site, and sell the council office building Sumner House to provide 48 private homes, which would help fund the scheme.
“This arrangement was re-evaluated after plans to open new council offices at Asylum Road were cancelled in October 2020, which means that the council currently needs to retain Sumner House. Therefore the Flaxyard site will be delivered as 100% affordable housing. This decision was made before the protest group formed.
“The Flaxyard site is not designated as open space and the plans for new housing were subject to extensive consultation and planning consent. We worked closely with residents and stakeholders in the area to create the designs and we are confident that the development will enhance the surrounding area as well as provide high-quality new council homes for local people.
“The plans for development at Brenchley Gardens have been paused for 9 to 12 months to allow the council to dedicate resources to other council housing developments which already have Cabinet Member approval.
“We believe that this is still a viable development which could deliver much-needed new council homes for local residents, and we intend to work with residents in future to investigate the potential for building new homes here.”
Pictured top: Protestors on Peckham Green (credit: Lewis Schaffer)
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