|Alton Estate Residents 'Exhausted'|
After developers Redrow pulled out of regeneration scheme in Roehampton
Residents on the Alton Estate in Roehampton are "exhausted" after developers Redrow last week pulled out of the regeneration scheme.
The latest plans were due to see more than 1,000 new homes built and a number of older buildings demolished, including the original entrance to the estate, Allbrook House.
They were to be replaced with towers up to nine storeys high, as well as a new library, health centre, children’s centre and shops delivered over the next decade.
Council tenants and owner-occupiers were guaranteed a newly built home.
Alton East resident Angus Robertson, 58, is a freeholder, and says the process has been “confusing”.
“It never feels like we’ve got to a definite plan and certainly not one that the wider community supports,” he said.
“Over time there has just been an exhaustion with consultation and ideas. People have just got lost and I think fed up with the process. So many people I speak to say there is no point in voicing an opinion because they are going to do what they decided to do, they are not going to listen to us.”
Mr Robertson said he was “pleased” that the scheme was pausing due to Redrow pulling out.
“It was a poor scheme. It didn’t act on what the needs of local people are in terms of social housing, transport, community facilities. It just seemed to be about creating loads of private dwellings and selling them off and making money.”
Now he wants to see the council taking action.
“The council say they are committed to a regeneration but they have been saying that for 15 years and we haven’t seen anything, so, firstly, they have to show they are committed and do something.
“I think they need to take this opportunity to look again at what the community needs and make a decision to start with a community-based plan.”
Matthew Tiller, 41, is a council resident and has lived on the estate all his life.
He hopes to see more of a focus on refurbishment, and small-scale development with more social housing.
Although he lives outside of the demolition zone, he fears developers will want to make it “creep outwards.”
“I have had that fear since I first heard about it,” he said.
Mr Tiller says homes along Danebury Avenue, which have been marked out for demolition, “are not untypical of the estate,” and that if the council argues they should go, then other places may be at risk.
Meanwhile, Tony Arthur, 56, has lived in a council flat on the estate for 12 years, and went to school on the Alton as a child as his grandparents lived in the area.
He said he is worried about what is going to happen next, especially for residents in the demolition zone who were promised a new home.
“My way forward would be to solve what’s wrong now – like poor cleaning – and that and making sure the people are looked after and treated in the best manner.
“I don’t agree with Labour finding a new regeneration partner at all. I would rather them spend more time on what needs doing because it needs to have a big break of what’s happened and what’s going to happen. They really need to sit down and talk,” he said.
Since the withdrawal of Redrow, a ‘blame game’ has erupted between the Conservative-held council and Labour ward councillors in Roehampton, as well as the local MP.
Council Leader, Conservative Ravi Govinida, pictured above, said “the two-tier planning system” in the capital meant that “even if Wandsworth gave permission, it would have to rely on the Mayor and all that takes time.”
He cited the estate regeneration at York Road/Winstanley in Battersea as an example of the delays faced by developers.
“The council gave permission in January, both parties supported it, it was an unanimous decision. It was all done in January, but we still haven’t actually got the door of the GLA planning system open for us to get stage-two approval, because they want detail here and detail there. It is kind of time-wasting stuff, seven months since the council approved it,” he said.
He added the fact that Redrow are staying on with the Colindale development in Barnet, building 10,000 homes, means that the Alton Estate development could have gone through if there wasn’t so much opposition from the Labour group.
Likewise, he claimed that Redrow’s decision to continue with the development on Bessborough Road, independent of the main contract on the Alton Estate, shows that coronavirus is not entirely to blame.
“What the opposition has done is delayed and dithered in getting us to a point where we could deliver a contract and planning approval to get spades in the ground and get the process started.
“Once started, Redrow would have found it very difficult to pull out of it, because it hasn’t started, and because they have delayed it endlessly, then they can walk away.”
Despite Redrow’s withdrawal, Cllr Govindia says he is committed to finding “a way forward to deliver the outcomes for the people of Roehampton that we pledged to deliver.”
He added: “I really feel very, very sorry for [Alton Estate residents] and I am absolutely apologetic that we have come to this situation where there are families there who know that our promise of giving them a larger flat, if that’s what they need, were relying on this regeneration for a better outcome for their families. That’s not going to happen.”
Labour councillor and Putney MP Fleur Anderson, pictured above told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she was also “very disappointed” for residents that the scheme is not going ahead.
She added: “Blaming each other is definitely not the right response, it’s certainly not one I’m doing.
“Redrow in all of their press releases said they were continuing with the scheme up until two months ago, and it is because of Covid that they are pulling out of all their London new projects. It’s not just the Alton. It’s because more people are buying outside of London and they just don’t see investment in urban areas is the way forward.
“I really don’t think that Labour have been holding back on the project. It’s a very disappointing reaction because residents really want a way forward now. They want to know we’ll be putting their views at the heart of this and moving on.”
She says she has already met with the council’s regeneration team to make sure they can get a new partner as soon as possible, as well as the team at City Hall to ensure both parties can work together to find a solution.
“One thing is speed. We know that local residents have been involved in this for 10 years now, several years of consultations, people have had enough of that. We really want to find a new partner soon, and to be assured we will have new housing because the housing is degenerating as we speak. It’s really not acceptable.
“The other issue which has been brought up by local people a lot […] is more council housing, more social housing, more afforable housing, if we’re going to have 10 years of building we want to know that we or our children will be able to afford to live here.”
She has also raised questions about what is happening to people living in temporary accommodation on the estate and shops being boarded up.
“Local people are really wondering what’s happening. They want to know. They want good information. I don’t think the council has talked to the community and consulted the community enough. So I think with any new partner, the next approach has got to be asking local people what they want and listening. But for the moment I think people just want answers – what is happening and when?”
Paul Muldowney, managing director at Redrow’s Greater London region, said in a statement that the developer was scaling back its operations in the capital because “new home delivery in London is a challenge compounded by increasing costs and a two-tier planning system.”
He added: “Our designs for the new community at the Alton Estate have been prepared to provide new homes alongside a wide range of community facilities and commercial space for local residents which have helped to move the scheme forward.
“We would like to reassure the local community that the homes at Bessborough Road, where we are currently on site, will be completed by Redrow. Taking the regeneration project to this stage has been the result of hard work and close collaboration with Wandsworth Council, we will continue to work closely together to ensure a smooth transition.”
But for some, it is simply not enough.
Putney resident Ivan Regan, who has friends on the estate and regularly shops down Danebury Avenue summarised the situation: “All we’ve got is an artist’s impression of what could be here and a lot of money spent and sunk.”
August 21, 2020