It’s getting on for a year since Sadiq Khan began requiring the support of residents to be secured through a ballot as a condition for receiving his financial help for estate redevelopment projects. The provision was not included in the draft of his best practice guide for such regenerations, and its insertion into the final document was seen by many at the time, not least some Labour-run boroughs, as a concession – or capitulation – to demands from the Corbyn Left, the Green Party and others involved in activism against such projects. Certainly, it was greeted in those circles as a victory. Their expectation was that tenants and other residents would use this new power at their disposal to prevent the destruction of their homes and the building of some different form of estate in their place. Is that how things have worked out?
Judging by some appearances, the answer has been no. Residents of five London estates have given a firm thumbs up to regeneration so far. Four have been conducted by three housing associations, in Barnet, Greenwich, Lambeth and Bromley. The other ballot was run by Ealing Council. However, as the GLA’s website states, bodies seeking money from the Mayor are required to notify him if residents vote in favour of the plans drawn up and no list of any with negative outcomes is kept. Have there been any? On London hasn’t heard of any, but then On London hasn’t been looking. Maybe readers can help.
Another question. Has the need to secure a “yes” outcome in a ballot put any housing associations or councils off seeking mayoral funds and otherwise pushing ahead with regeneration schemes because they fear they would lose them? Labour AM Tom Copley asked the Mayor about this and has received the following written answer:
“Councils do not need to provide a reason when they do not bid for my funding. However, the planning application by Wandsworth Council to demolish and rebuild the York Road Estate and part of the Winstanley Estate recently came to the GLA and I was disappointed to learn the council has not bid for my affordable homes funding for this project, as this could increase the level of affordable housing in the rebuilt estate beyond what is possible through the planning process alone. Personally, I was concerned it seemed the council may have been avoiding my funding as they are unwilling to undertake a ballot.“
Interesting. There’s also a GLA list of 23 estates which the Mayor has exempted from the need to produce a “yes” ballot outcome in order to qualify for his funding. There are five different grounds for exemption. In twelve cases it was because GLA funding had been committed before the ballot rule was introduced. In eight, it was because the necessary planning consent had been granted before the rules came in. In one case, both of those exemptions applied.
That leaves two. One of the them, owned by Barnet Council, was exempt because “demolition of social homes [was] required to reconfigure provision of supported and/or specialist housing”. The other, of obvious interest in view of recent history, concerns the Tangmere block of Haringey’s Broadwater Farm. Mayor-supported replacement of its homes can go ahead in order to “address concerns about the safety of residents”, as Haringey Council had hoped.
Is the Mayor’s balloting requirement smoothing the path of estate regenerations or mostly blocking it? Is it enabling more residents to get more of what they want, or the opposite? Can anyone really tell for sure?
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