South London estate residents left in limbo for almost a decade

·4-min read
Central Hill resident Pauline Porteous-Harley said the estate had been left to decline for so long it now needed rebuilding (photo: Pauline Porteous-Harley)
Central Hill resident Pauline Porteous-Harley said the estate had been left to decline for so long it now needed rebuilding (photo: Pauline Porteous-Harley)

Residents of a South London estate threatened with demolition for almost a decade say they’ve been waiting for their homes to be repaired for 20 years.

One person claimed Lambeth Council only fixed a window broken by a football in 2002 last week.

Lambeth revealed it wanted to rebuild the crumbling Central Hill estate in Gipsy Hill in 2014, but most of it is still standing.

It says the plans will create up to 750 new homes for the area and improve the quality of council properties.

The estate is one of six across Lambeth the council is rebuilding as part of its plans to build 1,000 extra properties.

But opponents say bulldozing Central Hill is unnecessary and want the council to refurbish the estate instead.

Pauline Porteous-Harley has lived on Central Hill for 23 years.

She once thought the estate could be refurbished but believes it has been left to decline for so long it now needs rebuilding.

The 66-year-old said: “I think it’s a good idea.

"If we want to bore holes in the wall we have to consult Lambeth because of the asbestos in the walls.

"The trees are blocking the drainage system so we have a stench.

“The damp is so bad I’ve stopped changing my curtains. It’s in almost every room of the house.

"A child smashed the window with a football in 2002 and it was only fixed last week.

"I stopped bothering to report problems to the council.

"It would have been possible to refurbish the estate in 2000 maybe, but not now.”

But Helen van Hoogstraten, 42, said it would have cost less to maintain Central Hill but said Lambeth had let it deteriorate.

She said: “It would be cheaper to refurbish and maintain the properties as they are nice and spacious inside and there’s lots of greenery around.

"They’ve allowed it to fall into disrepair.”

A resident of 15 years, who gave her name only as Valentine, said she was reluctant to move but accepted the estate needed revamping.

She said: “I don’t want to move but I don’t want to stay. It needs to be knocked down but I don’t want the stress of having to move.

“I won’t get anything as spacious.

"I won’t get anything as good as this but it’s one problem after the other here.

"I had to take them to the lawyers to get them to sort out the mould in the house.

"It took two years.”

Lambeth says refurbishing the estate would cost too much and that it is already short of more than £85million needed to modernise council homes in the borough.

But critics of demolition believe the council has deliberately let the estate fall into disrepair to justify the need to rebuild it.

Housing campaigner Pete Elliot said the council had made residents’ lives a nightmare.

He said: “The council has actively made things impossible for residents to have a normal life and this has resulted in health issues for residents.

“Leaseholders own blighted homes that they can’t sell or re-mortgage, as banks won’t give a mortgage on them.

"Tenants are not getting repairs done to their homes and the council has failed in its role as landlord in keeping the homes safe and healthy.”

Lambeth said 55 per cent of council tenants supported rebuilding the estate during a consultation in 2016.

But 51 per cent of leaseholders were against the plans.

The local authority has promised council tenants they will be able to move back into a new home on a lifetime tenancy at council-level rent on Central Hill.

A 2017 cabinet report said the additional new homes would be for sale or rent at market prices in order to fund the affordable homes.

Lambeth Council said cuts to government funding to maintain homes had forced it to regenerate estates in the borough.

It said it was aware residents were living in poor quality homes on Central Hill and said rebuilding the estate would create larger homes for people with improved disabled access.

The local authority said: “The only solution to homelessness is to build more homes.

"That’s why we’ve set up Homes for Lambeth (HfL): to build more council homes for local families.

"Across the borough families are already moving into new homes that HfL has built, including on other estate regeneration schemes where families have already been rehoused.

“Through consultation and master planning, we are determined to deliver high quality, affordable and council-level rent homes based on what the tenants of Central Hill and those from across the borough have told us they want.”

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