Mounting Anger at Estate Land Sell-Off

from Hackney Gazette, 8 February 2007

Tenants, residents and a Hackney Labour Party branch are up in arms about council plans to sell off up to £50 million worth of land on housing estates. The Leabridge branch of the Labour Party voted at a meeting last Thursday to oppose the council’s estates regeneration programme. The meeting passed a motion to debate the issue at Hackney North and Stoke Newington Constituency Labour Party next month.

Three days earlier, more than 70 people met at the Trelawney estate community hall in Morning Lane, Hackney, to discuss launching a campaign to fight the plans.

Janine Booth, of Malpas Road, Hackney, said the council’s idea was to fragment, privatise and over-populate the borough’s estates by allowing registered social landlords (RSLs) to build more homes and demolish a number of existing properties.

“Publicly-owned land is an asset that should not be given over into private hands,” she said. “Transfer to an RSL is a move away from away from public accountability, a form of privatisation.

“The experiences of residents on estates transferred in the past are not good. The council must be defining areas which residents use as ‘under-used’. To the council and developers, ‘under-used’ probably means ‘not making money’.”

The meeting of tenats and residents concluded by resolving to form an action committee; produce a petition; demonstrate outside the town hall and on estates facing demolition; demand a meeting with the council’s executive; and co-ordinate a response with trade unions.

According to a report which went before Hackney Council’s Cabinet last October, the council is seeking to sell patches of land for redevelopment, such as a plot between housing blocks on the Haberdasher estate in Shoreditch, large enough to accommodate 40 new two and three bedroom maisonettes.

Sales of such sites on 26 estates across the borough to RSLs for redevelopment could provide more than 500 new homes and generate up to £50 million for the town hall.

Last month the Gazette reported on concerns among community campaign group, Hackney Independent, that tenants and residents were being kept in the dark about the exact location of sites being earmarked by the council for redevelopment.

In October last year, 30 tenants of the Points on the Gascoyne estate in Homerton dressed as Guy Fawkes and Hallowe’en-style characters and demonstrated outside the town hall against the potential demolition of their homes.

Cllr Jamie Carswell, deputy mayor of Hackney and the Cabinet member for housing, said “I think the residents have got the wrong end of the stick. Nothing’s been decided as yet. There’s going to be a lot of work done by our capacity consultants, work which is still waiting to be done.

“The key thing is that any resources gained get ploughed straight back on to the estates. We would not be doing this unless it was about people’s homes and where people live.”