Protesters stand up to councils in row over demolition schemes

Fuming residents took to the streets to protest against housing demolition projects.

Residents of Lambeth’s Cressigham Gardens estate stood outside the town hall next to protesters from estates across London.

A candlelit vigil was also held in memory of former Creissgham Gardens resident Ann Plant, who died last year after a battle with bowel cancer.

Mrs Plant had helped set up the protest group Stand Up To Lambeth (SUTL), which led the demonstration earlier this month.

Mrs Plant’s widower, Andy Plant, said: “Living in Cressigham has been a dream. It’s like a village straight out of an Enid Blyton novel.

“Being disabled I know how important it is to be familiar with where you live and know where, if you trip, you can put your hands out to.”

Cressingham Gardens is a council housing estate designed in the late 1960s using low-rise dwellings to achieve the same residential density as high-rise apartment blocks.

In 2012 the council published plans to demolish the estate due to structural defects and build a new development in its place.

The council has tried to assure residents of the project’s merits. It says current residents will have the option to live in the new homes and that more homes will be available to those on the housing waiting list. But many, like Mr and Mrs Plant, who had lived there for more than 20 years, remained opposed to the project.

Mr Plant said: “What Ann wanted most of all was to save Cressingham Gardens estate. “She threw herself into everything. “Eight weeks before she died she was up all night making banners for the first Stand Up To Lambeth protest.

“She had a bowel tumour which was apparently the size of her fist and she had secondaries in her lungs and her bones.

“The day before she died, she asked me to carry on fighting.” A consultation period has now been set up with a design team meeting Cressigham residents, and a council timeline suggests the first house will be demolished in winter 2019.

A banner was laid for Mrs Plant outside the town hall and Mr Plant placed two candles in her memory.

SUTL spokesman Karen Bennet said: “Discontent with Lambeth council is widespread, and covers every point of view, from libraries to businesses, skate park users to people in sheltered housing.

All have one problem in common – the council itself.” Samantha Spence, 31, and her daughter, 10-year-old Destiny, previously lived in Tulse Hill estate but after a protracted argument with neighbours she was moved to Croydon in 2015 and she is now in temporary accommodation. She said: “I just wanted a home, to be normal like anybody else.

“I don’t want to believe that I have a disability or that I suffer from anxiety. I just feel lonely. “Now I don’t have a home.

“I love Brixton. I grew up here and this is where my family is. I just want to be near my family.

“I was born in Lambeth, here, not Croydon. “My daughter always sees me upset. Our relationship has been affected.

I couldn’t be the mother I was supposed to be.” A Lambeth council spokesman said: “Lambeth is facing a housing crisis, with 21,000 people on our waiting list, over 1,800 families in temporary accommodation, and 1,300 families in severely overcrowded accommodation.

“But, there isn’t enough money to improve all 24,000 council homes in Lambeth and there isn’t enough land in the borough to build the additional homes required.

“We are tackling this crisis head-on by investing millions of pounds to make current homes better, and identifying land available to build more homes.

“We’ve launched the biggest housebuilding programme for a generation, which includes plans to build better homes for current residents and more new homes for people who have no permanent roof over their heads.

“To pay for this, Lambeth has set up Homes for Lambeth (HFL), a company fully- owned by the council. It will also build private homes, which will pay for the better affordable homes.

“Because we recognise that this is a difficult and disruptive process, we have worked closely with residents on the estate regeneration programme and the Key Guarantees, which provide a comprehensive set of assurances for them.

“These were drawn up after extensive and lengthy consultation with residents and go beyond what has been offered on many other estates across London.”

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