In the Dark Over Land Sell-Off Plan

Residents are being kept in the dark over a bid to sell off up to £70 million worth of council-owned land on Hackney’s housing estates, campaigners claim.

Garages, play areas and green spaces are all at risk, but the council is refusing to say which ones, according to community campaign group, Hackney Independent (HI). Peter Sutton, HI spokesman, asked the council through a Freedom of Information Act request to confirm the locations of 18 sites which have been identified on the Cranston, St John’s and Haberdasher estates in Hoxton and Shoreditch and Fellows Court in Haggerston.

Mr Sutton said that he was told a consultant would be appointed this month to carry out further assessments, with plans being published in due course. Sales of such sites on 26 estates across the borough to registered social landlords for redevelopment could provide 700 new homes and generate up to £70 million for the town hall, according to a report which went before Cabinet last October.

A plot of land between housing blocks on the Haberdasher estate is large enough to accomodate 40 new, two and three bedroom maisonettes and a doctor’s surgery, according to the report.

It adds that at least five estates in Shoreditch are being targeted for sale and redevelopment in an already overcrowded area where property values are high, said Mr Sutton.

“The council’s still stuck in the bad, old days,” he said. “If you ask something, they say it’s too early to tell you. You ask again and they say the decision’s already been taken.

“There’s already a lack of open spaces in the Shoreditch area. There are issues with flooding from the sewers and water shortages.

“This is about removing play areas, garages that are in use and green spaces on estates, which are essential to make them decent places to live. If there’s room for anything new, it should be council housing.”

Mr Sutton added that he had been told that developers for the sites had been lined up and that homes had been earmarked for demolition without residents being informed.

Cllr Jamie Carswell, Hackney’s deputy mayor and Cabinet member for housing, said: “The next regeneration programme of Hackney’s estates is still at an early stage.

“Although we will be building much-needed housing, we will also be investing in facilities for the community, such as playgrounds, garages and parking spaces.

“By the end of this week we will have held 18 meetings with tenant’s and resident’s associations as well as residents to set out our strategy.

“However, because it is still at an early stage we are also very keen not to raise expectations or worry people unnecessarily.

“We will be consulting residents again once our consultant has identified the sites that have housing potential as these sites will provide the money to improve the lives of residents on our estates.”