Amid the extraordinary impact on London of the coronavirus outbreak, it has been difficult to keep up with fresh developments in significant stories the On London has been following for some time. That’s why it has taken more than a week to find time to update readers on the latest progress in Grosvenor Britain & Ireland’s plans to redevelop a triangle of land in south Belgravia – a plan that entails demolishing four blocks of flats for private rent known as the Cundy Street flats and another, adjacent, block called Walden House, which Grosvenor currently leases to Westminster Council. Westminster rents the 40 Walden House homes to its own tenants.
The latest turn of events is a letter from Grosvenor to Walden House residents (dated 20 March), which explains that a way has been found to phase the regeneration so that those who wish to have a new home in the new development will not need to move twice. A “right to return” to new homes on the site was promised by the council in September, following Grosvenor’s firming up its intention to build replacements for the Walden House dwellings, along with additional “affordable” homes of various kinds, in the planned new Cundy Street Quarter development.
The Grosvenor letter, signed by project director Fergus Evans, says the company has “worked hard” since consultation meetings in November to address concerns raised about the prospect of having to live somewhere else temporarily while the new, replacement homes were built. The outcome is that Walden House tenants will now have the choice of moving directly into the new home built for them. (The option of moving temporarily is still there, however. This is likely to be because not all will want to live in the proximity of the extensive building works).
All this depends on Grosvenor securing planning consent from Westminster. The aim is to submit plans after the final Cundy Street Quarter proposals have been completed and made public. This should happen “in the next few months”, the letter from Evans says. If planning consent is granted, Grosvenor says it will “appoint a social housing provider to manage the new social rented homes” and now anticipates work starting in late 2021. “It is anticipated the move to a new home would be in 2025,” the Grosvenor letter says.
Walden House resident Liza Begum, a Labour Party member who has been prominent in a campaign opposing the scheme as a whole welcomed the letter, saying on Twitter “I could actually weep” and that the one-move option takes “a huge amount of pressure” off families affected. There have been sharp differences of opinion between the campaigners and Conservative local councillor Murad Gassanly about the true feelings of Walden House and other residents about the Grosvenor scheme. Last year, Grosvenor embarked on a campaign to improve public trust in developers and the planning system.
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