Campaigners, residents and families took to the streets to protest against the demolition of the controversial Aylesbury Estate on Saturday.
Organised by Fight4Aylesbury and Southwark Defend Council Housing groups, about 100 people marched down Walworth Road calling on Southwark council to refurbish not demolish of the estate in Walworth.
The disputed regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate has seen social homes demolished and replaced with private or affordable rent units, displacing hundreds of tenants to other parts of the country.
Liz Byatt, 34, from Walworth, attended the march with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, a campaign group that works with people struggling with housing and homelessness.
Ms Byatt said: “It felt really hopeful and determined. Aylesbury residents, council tenants, people in temporary accommodation and even squatters came together.
“Marching down Walworth Road we received a really positive reaction from bystanders.
“There were numerous downpours of rain but it didn’t stop anybody and the group was growing all the time as we walked down the road. It felt strong.”
In 2020, Southwark council announced they were buying new homes from developer, Notting Hill Genesis, to be let as council homes.
But, campaigners have argued that the new council homes are too expensive, with cost adding up to £690,000 per council home.
Instead, protestors have said the council should refurbish the structurally sound homes.
Ms Byatt said: “There is a desperate shortage for council housing in the borough and a huge number of families are being broken up and displaced from their communities.
“There are no excuses for demolishing good homes that are sitting empty during a housing crisis. It is heartbreaking to see.
“The impact of the demolition of Aylesbury goes beyond the council tenants, it is adding years to waiting times for families who are on housing lists already.”
The protest comes as part of a decades-long campaign to prevent the removal of council homes.
The Aylesbury estate was built between 1967 and 1977, and has been one of the biggest housing complexes in western Europe for decades.
In 1998, Southwark council was promised £56million of government funding to help transform the estate.
Video footage of the protest on Saturday (Southwark DCH)
A regeneration plan proposed to knock down most of the estate and build 1,000 extra dwellings, which would be sold to private buyers.
In 2001 the estate’s tenants were given a vote on the proposal. Seventy-six per cent of the Aylesbury’s residents voted in the ballot. Seventy-three per cent voted against the regeneration.
Since 2012, small portions of the Aylesbury have been replaced by homes for sale or rent.
In 2014, Southwark emptied a larger section of the estate and rehoused most of the residents elsewhere.
Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark council, said: “We’re currently on site building over 580 high-quality council homes on the Aylesbury estate for existing residents to move to.
“We’ll be handing over the keys for many of these homes later this year. We’re replacing the homes that were badly built in the ’60s and seventies, which are reaching the end of their life.
“As well as the homes, we’re delivering a brand new library, green spaces and community facilities to ensure the renewed estate is a great place to live.”
Pictured top: Campaigners marching with a banner that reads “Southwark says hands off our homes, invest in council housing” (Picture: Tanya Murat)
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