The government’s housing minister has given a boost to one campaign by a London residents’ organisation for their estate to be transferred out of their local council’s ownership and delivered a blow to another in long-awaited decisions made in the past two days.
Lambeth Council has been told to facilitate a proposal submitted to it by a group from the Cressingham Gardens estate, despite its argument that the proposed transfer of homes to a private, resident-led housing organisation would have a “significant detrimental effect on the regeneration of the area”.
However, Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) will not have to co-operate with the similar company set up by those opposed to the demolition of the adjoining West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, which currently fall within the wider Earls Court redevelopment area.
Informing Lambeth that “the stock transfer process should continue”, housing minister Kit Malthouse wrote that, although there had been “continuous engagement” with Cressingham residents, the council had made “no evidenced concrete progress” with its plans to redevelop the site – plans the residents’ group has long opposed.
He said that the resident group’s “people’s plan” for the future management of the estate is likely to have a “positive impact” on the area it covers and that, as the estate accounts for only 1% of Lambeth’s housing stock, its loss would have little adverse effect on the council’s ability to maintain services for the rest of its housing or significantly reduce its income from rents.
However, a spokesperson for Lambeth said the council remains “committed to rebuilding Cressingham Gardens to provide better homes for existing residents and more homes for people on the council house waiting list”. The council added: “This announcement was based on information submitted in 2016 and we will need time to consider the implications”. It also noted that the ministry found that its own regeneration plans too would have a positive impact locally.
In 2017, Sadiq Khan awarded Lambeth £55 million to help fund new affordable homes in the borough, including on the Cressingham Gardens site.
The minister had been asked by both H&F and by West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes Ltd (WKGGCH) to make a decision about the stock transfer of the two estates in the West London borough. The council said it had grounds for rejecting a stock transfer proposal, submitted in August 2015, prompting WKGGCH to ask the secretary of state to determine if this view was valid. H&F then made its own approach to the ministry, asking it to decide if a transfer of the estates’ housing stock would “have a significant detrimental effect on the provision of housing services…or the regeneration of the area”.
Malthouse, a former London Assembly Member for the borough, said he accepted H&F’s position, saying “there is sufficient ground to conclude that the Earls Court regeneration scheme is making concrete progress”.
However, a spokesperson for WKGGCH has called Malthouse’s decision “arbitrary”, accused him of addressing a different point from the one the council raised, and claimed it is “directly contradicted” by the relevant regulations. He also mocked the characterisation of the state of the wider Earls Court regeneration scheme as “impossible to reconcile with the facts”.
The main section of Earls Court scheme is widely considered stalled, with no new housing built on a site cleared of the Earls Court exhibition centre buildings in 2015. Principal developer Capital and Counties (Capco), which in 2014 formed a joint venture with landowner Transport for London (TfL) to build housing on the site, has instead been seeking a buyer for its interests, to the mounting frustration of TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The two estates are currently subject to a conditional land sale agreement between the Labour-run council – signed under a previous, Conservative, administration – and the council has been seeking their release back to its control. Mayor Khan has said that any new masterplan for the area drawn up with a different developer would not meet with his approval unless the estates are returned to the council.
Photo of Cressingham Gardens estate from Lambeth Council
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