MAYOR’S ‘GOOD PRACTICE’ GUIDE ON ESTATE REGENERATION READS LIKE A MANUAL FOR COUNCIL DEMOLITION – SIAN BERRY
A ‘good practice guide’ on estate regeneration issued by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reads like a manual for council demolition, says Greater London assembly member Sian Berry.
In his foreword to the consultation document Mayor Khan says: “We must protect and improve estates owned by councils and housing associations across London.
“The social housing they provide is a foundation of our mixed city. “Indeed, it ensures that Londoners on low incomes have somewhere decent and affordable to live in the capital.
“In some cases, little needs to be done to protect and improve those estates but others may require more ambitious regeneration plans, for example to improve the quality of housing and nearby public space, and to make the most of opportunities for building new and affordable homes.
“When plans for estate regeneration are considered, I want to see existing local residents closely involved from the outset.
“We need to make sure that tenants and leaseholders on the estate are treated fairly, and we must protect existing affordable housing throughout.
“Involving residents at the start helps build trust in the process. “It also means residents can help shape the options that emerge.
“That is why I am developing a good practice guide for how to approach estate regeneration that puts local people at its heart. “I want to consult widely on this draft, so that the final guide is fit for Londoners.”
The report says: “The Mayor believes that for estate regeneration to be a success, there must be resident support for proposals, based on full and transparent consultation.
“These proposals should offer full rights to return for displaced tenants and a fair deal for leaseholders, and demolition should only be followed where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where all other options have been exhausted.”
The document also includes a summary / check list of key requirements:
Aims and objectives for estate regeneration: Are the aims and objectives transparently and clearly stated? • Have there been meaningful opportunities for engagement from all stakeholders, with residents’ view being primary? • Has the most appropriate combination of interventions been considered, including repair, refurbishment, investment, infill, demolition & rebuild? • If demolition and rebuilding has been chosen as part of an estate regeneration, is this only happening where it does not result in a loss of social housing, or where other all options have been exhausted? • Will the proposed regeneration improve the appearance of the estate and surrounding area? • Is there proactive monitoring of outcomes in place, with resident involvement? Consultation and engagement with residents • Has consultation been transparent, extensive, responsive and meaningful? • Are all the viable options set out, with supporting data shared as early as possible? • Has there been consideration of the costs and benefits, both in financial and social terms, of all viable options against ‘doing nothing’? • Have social tenants and resident leaseholders been engaged primarily, and relevant views considered from other affected parties, including private tenants, non-resident leaseholders, and business/ community tenants? • Has an appropriate range of methods of engagement been used? • Has there been support for residents to participate meaningfully? • Have ‘interim offers’ to residents been explored?
But Sian Berry says: “This guidance reads like a manual for councils to get their demolition plans through.
“The ‘good practice’ checklists it contains are vague and more or less useless for any Londoners wanting to hold their councils to account over estate regeneration.
“This draft from the Mayor actually tells councils not to waste their time consulting on ‘nonviable’ options when the right time to go to residents is before you have developed any options at all.
“It actively discourages councils from using ballots and its definition of a meaningful final say is for councils to ‘consider views’ and then explain why they’re going ahead anyway.
“The gaping hole in these guidelines is any way for residents to propose their own ideas and have these assessed.
“I have been asking the Mayor to provide expertise and grants for residents to get involved in planning at an early stage and develop their own proposals but this principle is nowhere to be seen.”
Sian Berry wrote to the deputy mayor for housing in September asking for five key principles to be followed in the new estate guidance:
No residents excluded from involvement in making plans for the area
Full transparency for information on the current state of estates and the basis for new plans
Early and wide engagement with residents, when the goals of the regeneration are still open to change
Expert support for residents to develop their own plans for their areas
A meaningful final say and real decision-making power over the final options, ideally with a ballot for all residents
“The Mayor should go back to the drawing board. “Even the Government produced more useful guidelines last week, which set out clear steps for landlords and councils in a way that was at least specific and transparent, even if it didn’t give practical power to residents to make their own plans.
The guidance is open to consultation until 14 March 2017.