Residents ‘furious’ over collapse of Ebury Bridge estate regeneration plans
Council apologises for debacle and faces demand for a ’referendum’
21 July, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya
Homes on the Ebury Bridge estate
A NEW community group representing scores of residents says it has lost faith in the council after a massive estate redevelopment collapsed.
The Ebury Bridge CommUNITY group, representing tenants and leaseholders in five blocks on the Ebury Bridge estate, “feel they are just going to be lied to” after Westminster Council announced it will “look again” at major regeneration of the estate in Pimlico. In a bombshell for residents, the council has said no developer could be found to take on its original demolition plan that was agreed in 2013. People were informed at a meeting on the estate last month that the original scheme was no longer “commercially viable”.
According to the Labour Party, more than £35million has already been spent as part of the scheme to buy back council homes that had been sold under Right to Buy. Some of these flats remain boarded up. Until a few weeks ago, residents believed that Rye, Victoria, Bucknill, Westbourne and Doneraile blocks were to be retained while others would be demolished and replaced.
A resident spokeswoman for the new CommUNITY group said the delay and uncertainty was “appalling”.
“People are absolutely furious,” she said. “We’ve had four years since the vote, before that we had indecision. We have had about five years of not knowing what the hell is happening to our homes. You are dealing with homes here, not housing stock or units.
“Who is going to buy a property with indecision? It is extraordinarily stressful. We also have a lot of boarded-up buildings here. It is not good for people living here.”
Despite the meeting last month many residents were unaware the situation had changed and what the future had in store. The redevelopment plans were first voted on by residents in 2013, but the council say it became clear two years ago that the scheme was “not attractive commercially to market-leading developers”.
The Labour group has called for residents to be given a say in future plans for the regeneration project with a referendum. Churchill ward councillor Jason Williams said: “People’s whole lives have been put on hold. It’s very important to get this moving.”
He added: “It is appalling that residents have been put through all this uncertainty only for the Tories to admit defeat four years later. They have mismanaged the whole process and should have engaged architects and developers from the outset. It is essential that residents are kept informed and engaged in the process and that any further plans should be subject to a referendum of all residents before they can go ahead.”
Fellow Churchill councillor Shamim Talukder said: “People’s lives have been affected and all the Tories can promise is more delays and more uncertainty.”
Labour have quizzed the council on issues including why a developer was not consulted before the original scheme went to planning in 2014, what lessons they have learned from the failed scheme and how they will ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The scheme was initially expected to be completed by 2017 but was later pushed back to 2021. The council admitted the delays were likely to cause “frustration” to residents.
A report to the cabinet said: “There is clear recognition the council have not met these dates and there is understandable disappointment and frustration. It affects residents’ lives and their ability to make long plans for themselves and their families.”
Cllr Rachael Robathan, member for housing, said last week: “On Monday, the cabinet authorised officers to work-up in detail an entirely new scheme, requiring resident engagement on all development options. The council’s community engagement team will now start to make contact with each household on the estate to personally introduce themselves and commence an initial listening stage. Following this initial conversation, a range of drop-in sessions and one-to-one meetings will be arranged to ensure that the views of the whole estate are taken on board.
“We are very aware that there generation process has been very frustrating for everyone and we apologise that it has taken so long. This was expressed directly by myself and the leader at a resident meeting on June 28, along with reassurances that the council remains fully committed to the regeneration of Ebury Bridge and to making this a success. We continue to work with residents to provide suitable alternative accommodation and are committed to maintaining our offer to rehouse residents while new proposals are being brought forward.”