Pipe Down – article from Private Eye

Residents of a run-down London estate who worked for four years on a community-led redevelopment plan have been sold down the river by Hackney council. In another of the “hard choices” beloved of the borough¹s Labour mayor, Jules Pipe (see Eye 1100), the council has sold a piece of land vital to the plan to a private developer ­ putting hopes for the estate¹s regeneration back by years.

Thousands of residents on Hackney’s Woodberry Down estate live in accommodation way below the government¹s “decent homes” standard. Dampness, drug dealers, vandalism, a huge backlog of repairs ­ the estate has the full checklist of problems. Deciding that they’d had enough, a group of tenants formed an Estate Development Committee (EDC) and came up with a redevelopment plan which, until this year, had the Council¹s backing. It entailed building 350 homes on a derelict piece of land, the site of a former school. When built, these homes would be used to “decant” residents while their original houses were being rebuilt.

Now the council has decided to cancel the community-supported plan and sell the school site to an unnamed developer for £17m. The developer will be free to sell 210 homes to the private sector, while providing just 120 “social housing” units. The original estate will be transferred to a housing association and rebuilt ­ eventually. But no housing association has been chosen and plans for the compulsory purchase of alternative sites for the “decanting” process are at a very early stage ­ so the whole process could take years.

Veronica Mensah, a member of the EDC, said the residents felt very badly let down: “People who have devoted a lot of their time to planning for a positive future on this estate are now losing hope. The stress and anxiety which the state of housing here causes people is unbelievable. This, though, is typical of Hackney Council.”