Gangs and Faulty Lifts Main Issues for Alton Estate Residents

Many say council not responsive when complaints made

Alton Estate, Roehampton. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon


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Residents on the Alton Estate in Roehampton claim it is plagued by gangs and lifts that always break. People living on the housing scheme next to Richmond Park have called for their homes to be fixed up as they aren’t being knocked down as part of a major revamp of the 1950s development.

A major redevelopment of the estate was given the green light by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan earlier this year. Under the latest plans, 288 council homes will be knocked down while 1,108 new and replacement homes are due to be built.

There will be a new square, community building and office accommodation on the site. Many locals have backed the redevelopment plans.

But residents of tower blocks on the estate told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that homes which aren’t being knocked down also need repairs. Dad-of-two Terry Baker, 45, said he felt the estate was dirty, and claimed the council were “non-existent” when residents complained.

He said, “You could go into any block now and check their lifts – I bet there’s wee in there and stuff on the floor that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned or touched for months and we get charged a weekly cleaning thing.” He added, “It really needs to be updated some of it, I mean our lift has got holes in the floor. People don’t go in our lifts where we live because they think the floor’s going to go through one day and it will do one day.”

He said he used to see the police weekly on the estate but that there was not “very much policing at all” anymore. He said, “I’ve lived here 24 years… for the first four years there was a big police presence. Lots of raids. It was all very public, and sort of promoted, saying this is what we’re doing. But that was a long, long time ago we never see any police here anymore.”

He claimed there are now “gangs everywhere on this estate” coming from nearby Southfields, Battersea and Clapham. He said the block was also an ideal spot for would-be drug dealers.

When asked about the regeneration plans, resident Zena Maclawence, who lives outside of the demolition zone, said: “I’m more concerned about the quality of where I’m living.” The 30-year-old said there was “so much that needs to improve”.

Ms Maclawence said she was happy on the estate but that her home was “freezing” during winter, with residents waiting for double-glazed windows to be installed. She said: “It’s a concern and I hope they see it through and I hope they do it before winter kicks off.”

She added: “The majority of my income goes onto the heating, it’s really cold especially in my daughter’s room and stuff like that.” She claimed there had been “empty promises” and that lifts were always breaking. She said: “It’s constant, it’s always breaking down – they need all new lifts and I just think they should be more responsive in terms of that.”

Joanne Smith, 49, said her home was also “freezing” during winter and that she was waiting for new windows. Having lived on the estate for 32 years, she said “not a lot has changed” and that she had experienced no “major problems” but struggled to get responses in time from the council. She said: “Everyone in the block, I couldn’t tell you all their names, but they always say hello.”

Student Khalid El Boukhari moved to the estate from Morocco in March 2021 and rated his happiness on the estate a “six out of ten”. He said although it had been “dangerous” in the area it was now “very, very quiet” and that most people he knew were students.

Caroline Peters, 36, said she loved living on the estate but added there was “nothing really down here for the kids”. She said: “It’s nice down here – once everyone’s here like we’ll get together down here on summer fairs and everyone comes in and joins in and it is nice. You do get some naughty kids around there, adults and that have a drink on the street and that but everywhere else you’re gonna go you’re gonna get the same, and it ain’t that bad down here.”

Speaking about the regeneration plans, she said,“ I think they should leave it there where it is and how it is because that’s how it is and how it’s always been.”

Bernd Doring, who has lived on the estate since 2007, says that he loves it and is surprised to hear of the criticism. He commented, "There have been issues but the Council has been very good in sorting them out. Drug dealers got dealt with by the Police with the help of neighbours. The next ones were gone within weeks.

"The lifts have probably been out three times in all the years I have been living there and were usually fixed the next day. There was always at least one lift of two working at a time.

"Ok, they could be cleaner but there is a lot of traffic due to high density and I found a lot of people don’t really care where they live because it is a council block.

"I don’t understand how tenants can be cold. As far as I am aware the entire estate had new double glazed PVC windows and they were quite expensive."

The regeneration scheme will take place in phases, meaning some parts of the estate will be rebuilt before others and new homes will be built before blocks are demolished. Work has already started on building the new council homes. The council has said the plans will deliver new high-quality homes that are accessible and adaptable, with access to private outdoor space along with new community facilities.

Sergeant Mat Knowles, supervisor for the Roehampton Safer Neighbourhood Team that covers the Alton Estate, said, “Having worked in and around the Alton Estate for the last sixteen years I know the area and some of the residents very well. The Alton estate itself is a large residential estate with approx. 10,000 people living in the vicinity.

“The various strands of policing within Wandsworth are regularly deployed in and around the Alton estate, whether this be Safeguarding, Emergency Response Teams, Gangs and proactive units or the Safer Neighbourhood Team. In recent months additional resources have also been deployed into the area in response to a linked series of harassments with a range of tactics being utilised both overtly and covertly.”

He added Wandsworth Police have a “good working relationship with local businesses and partners” and work in partnership with the local authority and housing associations that operate in the area.

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said, “The council’s new administration has paused the procurement process over the summer while it considers if there should be any changes to the regeneration scheme and how to best deliver improvements to the estate. The Alton is home to a thriving and vibrant local community and the views of its residents are of paramount importance. If there are any issues they wish to raise we are always keen to hear them.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

June 24, 2022

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