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‘Let us vote’ plea from residents fighting estate demolition

Protests as councillors wave through 750-home redevelopment of Ebury Bridge – after previous housing scheme was bungled

13 July, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Residents make their point outside the meeting on Monday

A CAMPAIGN group fighting the demolition of one of Westminster’s largest estates is demanding residents are given a vote.

Ebury Bridge residents protested with placards and banners and called for a ballot outside the council’s cabinet meeting in the Strand on Monday.

But councillors waved through the 750-home redevelopment report that claims “there is little purpose in holding a formal vote to determine residents’ views”.

A group statement to the cabinet said: “We are a group of residents who have surveyed our community twice. The views we have gathered from our neighbours vastly differ from the official narrative of the council. We offer you the unvarnished reality of resident sentiment and opinion on the Ebury Bridge estate.”

It added: “We had a right to vote on our future in May 2013 – 59.6 per cent of the resident body turned out. Clearly residents feel strongly about this issue. Why are we being denied a vote?”

The total demolition plans follow an earlier scheme, agreed in 2013, to part demolish the estate and renovate remaining homes.

Extraordinarily that plan was scrap­ped last year after almost £30million of public funds was spent. More than 100 homes have lain empty for more than a year because of the bungling. Developers rejected the plan and red-faced council officials were later forced to admit the scheme was “commercially unviable”.

An artist’s impression of how Ebury could look

At the cabinet meeting Labour demanded residents are balloted again on the latest plan.

Churchill ward councillor Andrea Mann said: “As Westminster Council’s proposal for Ebury is full demolition and rebuild of the estate – everyone’s home will be demolished – we believe it would be entirely wrong not to give every household the right to have their say in a ballot before it goes ahead.”

The council said it had already gone to considerable lengths to ensure residents are fully informed of the plans and it had held 20 events with the community.

Murad Gassanly, a Churchill ward councillor who quit Labour and became an independent before completing an all-out transformation to stand as a Conservative in the last council election, has tweeted enthusiastically about the project being approved.

Responding to Cllr Mann, he said: “I’m proud to have helped secure up to 150 additional council flats in my ward. This will resolve long-standing overcrowding issues and our Local Lettings policy will ensure homes go to priority homeless families in this area. Such a shame that you’re opposing this.”

The council insists the decision to approve plans on Monday would make the Pimlico estate home to the “largest single delivery of new council homes in the heart of London for over half a century”.

It says it will replace the existing 198 social rented homes and build another 144 more, although two-thirds of these will be “intermediate” or part-rent part-mortgage lease agreements aimed at working couples. Another 350 flats will be built and sold on the private market.

Cllr Rachael Robathan, cabinet member for finance, property and regeneration, said: “I want to thank our Ebury Bridge residents – over 80 per cent of you – who participated in an extensive and transparent consultation process.

“A right of return is guaranteed for all secure council tenants and lease holders.”

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