Once again I find myself reading an important piece about social housing under threat, this time in Streatham, which needs wider publicity but instead is tucked away on a private discussion group. So I’m giving it a wider view at risk of copyright violation. I’d like to make it clear that what follows was not written by me but I agree with it as written and trust the judgement of the author.

This is 269 Leigham Court Road in Streatham, currently sheltered housing, with 45 flats that are home to 50 residents, all over the age of 60, all on secure tenancies. Despite being designed by architect Kate Macintosh specifically to house elderly people, a duty it has performed since 1975, in January 2013 Lambeth Council suddenly declared the estate ‘unfit for purpose’, told residents that it was too expensive to do the repairs and maintenance they had neglected for years, and declared the site was to be ‘sold as cleared land.’

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Why Open Garden Estates?

The aim [is] to help banish the myth of council estates as concrete jungles that are home to anti-social behaviour and crime, and show them to be what they are – some of the last instances of community living left in London, and perhaps the only remaining places where the mixed communities we hear so much about in the speeches of politicians have a chance to survive the encroachment of gated ghettos of predominantly white, middle-class wealth.

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I think it needs to be known how Lambeth Council behave when confronted with alternative proposals to their demolition plans to the estates in the borough over which they presently have political control.

If you don’t follow ASH on Twitter or are not a member of the Facebook group or read their blog you will probably not be aware of the hostility they are up against on a day to day basis in putting forward an alternative method of dealing with the housing situation in Lambeth.

Once again therefore, rightly or wrongly, I feel it necessary to publish what happened the night ASH tried to present their alternative proposals for Central Hill to Lambeth Council.

You can read about the presentation itself on their blog here:-

ASH Presentation to Central Hill Estate Residents Engagement Panel

What you’re less likely to read is what follows, as published on the Facebook page. Once again I don’t know if I ought to be doing this but I think you are entitled to know, if you have any interest in the housing situation in London.

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ASH on the Housing Bill

May 5th, 2016

I copied what follows off the ASH FB page. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done I don’t know – but what I do know is that every word of it rings true. This is a fight for the survival of council housing in the UK and if you think that’s an exaggeration then watch the Housing Bill pass and the housing crisis worsen inexorably.

Well, that was worth it. Further proof that the fight for council housing won’t be won in Parliament by the verbal outrage of landlords and company CEOs, but on council estates and by the direct action of the residents whose homes are threatened.

We need to stop asking the people and institutions that want to demolish our homes to give us the means to stop them doing so, and start organising our own resistance on the ground. That starts with the political awakening of every resident to the reality of what they are facing, which is not a policy disagreement between Tory and Labour but a class war being waged by the rich.

I’ve said this from the time we first read this Bill and I’ll repeat it again now. This Bill is not ‘badly thought through’, ‘written too quickly’, a ‘hodgepodge’, or ‘half-baked’ – as the Labour Party and its press have endlessly dismissed it as.

It is carefully designed to do exactly what it intends to do, which is bring about the end of social housing in this country. The Labour Party should understand this better than anyone, as it has been, and will continue to be, its councils that will implement the Bill’s legislation.

It is this truth that we need to face, and quickly, if we are to organise mass resistance to its attacks, not in A-B marches to Parliament, submissions to the House of Lords, or faith in the Second Coming of J.C. to miraculously reverse what’s going to happen to council housing over the next four years.

These measures, which have wasted the time and drained the energy of what limited opposition to the Bill there has been, have only served to divert our attention from what is really needed to oppose it, which is collective resistance by the hundreds of thousands of residents whose homes will be sold or demolished by the Housing and Planning Bill and the mass estate regeneration programmes its legislation will enable. – Simon Elmer

I found this by ASH (Architects for Social Housing) on their Facebook page and it’s too important to leave there so if you are a leaseholder on an estate threatened with redevelopment against your wishes then read, mark, and learn what follows:-

Apart from all this mucking about, one thing that came out of the presentations and discussions, and which was backed up by advice from a barrister and a leasehold lawyer, is that collective resistance by leaseholders forcing Councils to issue Compulsory Purchase Orders against them is one of the most effective ways to resist estate regeneration and save the homes of all residents, leaseholders and council tenants alike.

It costs the Council shitloads, allows us to question the consolation process at legal inquiries, put forward alternative plans and argue that they better represent the needs of the local community, and delays their demolition plans by years. It also casts an uncomfortably bright light on the Plato’s cave of illusions in which the public is imprisoned by the press.

If we can show every leaseholder on every estate in London why they should do this, then the Tory Government, Labour Councils, Savills, and all the other housing associations, building companies and property investors feeding at the London housing table might start to think again about whether estate demolition really is the easiest route to a quick buck. – Simon Elmer


I attended a showing of Estate: a Reverie by Andrea Luka Zimmerman on Wednesday evening at the Tate Modern. Following the film an interesting discussion took place among six interested parties and from the audio I have transcribed some excerpts as shown below.

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Five years ago I wrote “Why sink estates exist” in despair at the course right to buy had taken and the growth of buy to let mortgages.  Now Stephen Farrall of the University of Sheffield has written a similar piece only based on data rather than hearsay. I’ve reproduced it here with permission under the Creative Commons Licence.  The article was originally published on The Conversation.

Thatcher helped people to buy their own homes – but the poorest paid the price

Stephen Farrall, University of Sheffield

It has been 25 years since Margaret Thatcher gave her final, tearful speech as prime minister of the UK on the steps of Downing Street. In the decades since, we’ve had time to get to grips with the legacy left behind by one of the most polarising figures in British politics. Cutting through the visceral, ideological storm she left in her wake has been no easy task, and our research has found that the story told by the data is more complex than we could have imagined.

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Five years ago I attended Progressive London 2010 at which Karen Buck was speaking, among others.  She identified then the problems that will come to pass with the Governments recent attack on tenure.

Karen Buck was superb with a long talk about the possible loss of secure tenure of council tenants should a Conservative Government be elected and implement the plans outlined by Localis in Principles their now infamous document on Tory proposals for council housing.

She drew a parallel with the experiences of black migrants from the American South coming to Chicago in the 1940s and becoming the victims of slum landlords while suffering the indignities of being “frequent movers”, people unable to take their place in society for want of a stable home address. [The Promised Land – Nicholas Lemann] Karen put forward the view that in the absence of secure tenure and having only an AST with two months to quit, council tenants would become a transient population, unlikely to be registered with a GP, their children changing schools, unlikely to be on the electoral register and to vote. She pointed out that Conservative think council tenants are second class citizens.

Karen Buck is always worth listening to about housing.

Council tenants lose lifetime right to live in property – The Guardian


Click image for audio and see Tweet


If you want to skip the introductions the interview proper starts at 9m20s in.

Heard through @municipaldreams


The other night Channel 4 broadcast Sex in Class and there in the title sequence, before the name of the programme had been shown, appeared this tower block, by implication in Accrington where the programme is based. However, on calling the local planning department the following morning they denied having anything over 7 storeys in their town.

The image above is a photograph of the television screen, I tried to run the C4 online catchup to get a high quality screenshot but all I get is a rotating animation and never the programme so the quality of the image above is necessarily poor.

The mystery remains. This is a scissor maisonette block as evidenced by the alternate corridors whose end windows appear on the right hand side visible in the photo above. There is one corridor for every two levels. That is how scissor blocks work. But I didn’t think there were any outside London and Glasgow and would be interested to know where this one is.

I wrote to Channel 4 and they directed me to the programme makers who have yet to reply.

If you recognise it please drop me a line to blog@singleaspect.org.uk thank you.