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Fenwick Estate residents to flashmob Tube station in anti-demolition protest

Residents of Clapham’s Fenwick Estate are planning a petition to demand a ballot on the council’s demolition and regeneration plans.

At a protest at Lambeth Town Hall on Monday 19th March placards held up by a crowd of around 30 demonstrators included the messages, ‘Hands off our homes’ and ‘Ballot us!’.

The plans to demolish Fenwick are part of a wider estate regeneration project currently impacting five estates across the borough. Despite the Mayor of London’s recent policy recommendation that councils should offer tenants the chance to ballot on regeneration projects, Lambeth Council state: “The Mayor’s guidance is clear that it refers to future schemes that require grant funding, it is not applied retrospectively.”

Nahied Attique from the Fenwick Estate Tenants and Residents Association, and a leaseholder on the estate for 11 years, said of the recent protest: “No-one came out to listen. I don’t know who my councillor is, because they don’t show their faces”.

“What we want is no demolition. We want the council to come here, they need to fix the properties. One tenant’s kitchen ceiling has been dripping, she’s called so many times, but no-one’s come out. It’s not about regeneration, it is about social cleansing.”

Alongside a petition for a ballot that they intend to send to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the protesters plan a flash mob at Clapham North station to draw attention to their campaign.

The council has experienced delays in the planning permission process to regenerate Fenwick estate, facing a recent legal challenge from Karakusevic Carson Architects, one of the companies that tendered for the project. It was announced in April 2017 that Mace Ltd won the bid.

Tina Humphries from Defend Council Housing (DFA) claims that other local estate regeneration projects like Cressingham Gardens have received planning permission, so are not entitled to a ballot. But as permission is not confirmed for Fenwick, protestors are fighting for a say in the plans.

She said: “Under the new guidance by the Mayor, we should be entitled to a ballot. Lambeth don’t want to give us one, they will have to make their argument and we will make ours, and they don’t want that because they know they will lose”

“The consultation, which Lambeth claim is the best consultation they’ve had over all estate regenerations, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. We’ve gone around door knocking, people don’t know what’s going on.”

Lambeth Council deny that it is a requirement to offer Fenwick tenants a ballot: “As the Mayor’s new plans sets out, any such scheme should ensure no loss of social housing, a guarantee of a new home for every resident on the rebuilt estate and an increase in affordable housing – and that’s exactly what our plans deliver”.

George Turner, an investigative journalist and former Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhall, took Lambeth Council to court in 2015 over a £1.6 billion scheme to redevelop the South Bank.

He has recently presented a photography exhibition at the Camera Club in Kennington exploring the issues around estate regeneration. “London is undergoing a huge transformation with little genuine debate about this change,” he said.

He expressed concerns over Lambeth council’s actions at Cressingham Gardens, another estate facing demolition and regeneration. “So much regeneration is about sacrificing the interests of people who live here today for the people who might live in a place in the future. The only concern of the people driving regeneration seems to be maximisation of profit.”

In response to concerns over estate regeneration projects, grassroots Labour campaign group Momentum said: “Housing has become a critical issue for Lambeth residents. Sensible tenant-led estate regeneration that retains existing numbers of social rented homes and builds more, is vital.”

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