Silchester estate residents claim regeneration will force them out

Residents of North Kensington’s Silchester Estate have accused the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea of “socially cleansing” the neighbourhood, after “regeneration” plans were proposed which could see most of the estate demolished.

 

Although plans have not yet been formalised, consultations between residents and the council developers, Porphyrios Associates, could see virtually the entire estate demolished and redeveloped to “reduce the number of under-occupying households”, thereby “relieving overcrowding.”

Green Party Mayoral candidate, Sian Berry, and London Assembly candidate for West Central London, Jennifer Nadel, recently drew attention to the “regeneration” project, meeting with some of the families who live on the estate in March.

KCW Today was told by residents that the council had “not listened” to their complaints, and that there was already a “strong community which will be broken up by these plans.”

Jo Poole, secretary of the Silchester Residents Association, invited KCW Today into her family home to demonstrate that, contrary to what the council had told residents, the Silchester properties are not in a state of disrepair.  She adds the regeneration project is “an enormous, and massively destructive” option which is “entirely unnecessary.”

Poole is particularly affected by regeneration schemes in the area, with her bespoke dress making studio, The Dress Doctor, at risk of being moved out of its premises by a similar scheme.

“It’s not a sink estate”, she says, “it’s really lovely, and it has a really strong community which is great for families.” Joining Poole, was her young son who, throughout much of our conversation, was eager to play in the community playground which is at the heart of the estate’s leafy gardens.

Jennifer Nadel has said “there are around 700 homes here, some in 20 storey tower blocks and some in mews houses and cottages”, and yet “the preferred plan is to completely demolish everything and rebuild regardless of what it is.”

Nadel argues that “it’s a massive proposal that affects so many people in so many ways”, and that instead of this “nuclear option”, surveyors and architects should “look at the buildings, many of which do not need replacing, and for there to be a gradual change.”

“This is a happy, flourishing estate and it is completely wrong to demolish it” she adds, “the council have failed to offer residents the only option they favour – which is a gradual and respectful regeneration” preferring instead to “attempt to socially cleanse the area”. 

 

Silchester Estate Westway

 

An RBKC spokesperson said “We have made it clear to all secure tenants that if a redevelopment did take place they would have the right to return to a home in the same area, in a property on the same terms and conditions, if they wish. We are at a very early stage in looking at what could be done to improve the Silchester estate”.

Adding that the Council’s “main objectives in any redevelopment are to build more affordable housing and to make our Council housing as good as possible”.

Mrs. Helen Irwin, 82, who raised her family on the estate with her husband, currently lives in a three-bedroom flat, however, in the regeneration proposal, she has only been offered a one bed replacement flat. “It’s not at all like for like” she Irwin explained, “and it’s because we have a spare room.”

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea councillor responsible for the Silchester regeneration projects, Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, recently bought a property just streets away from the estate.

Socially Conscious Capital, a property developer company that Fielding-Mellen is an Executive Director for, describes the Councillor as having 10 years experience managing “major housing and regeneration opportunities” and “hands-on experience in financing, planning, building, and marketing development projects.”

Just like Mrs Irwin, Fielding-Mellen’s terrace home has three bedrooms. However, residents have raised concerns that the councillor is benefiting from the decision to regenerate the area, as his property will stand to benefit from the scheme.

Despite attempts to contact Cllr Feilding-Mellen through RBKC, he was unavailable for comment.

However, a Council spokesperson said that they “are still at the very early stages” of planning and no decision to redevelop the estate has been taken.”

“If the redevelopment does go forward one day,” the council explained “then all secure tenants would have the right to return to a home on the redevelopment or very nearby if they wish, and those new homes would be on the same rent levels and terms as their current tenancies.”

Leaseholders on the estate would be offered “the opportunity to buy a new home on the redevelopment on a “shared equity” basis, in order to preserve the existing community”, the council confirmed.

An integral part of this process is moving residents “straight into their new homes”, dubbed the “one and done” policy, whereby residents will not be left out of home for long periods. The council did, nevertheless, accept that there would, most likely, be “a need for temporary decanting whilst their home is redeveloped”.

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When KCW Today asked the council if residents would be offered a “like-for-like” exchange for their current property, the spokesperson said:

“Our offer is of a brand new home in the same area that meets the needs of the tenant’s household, but the Council cannot commit to providing tenants with flats that are much larger than they need, when there is so much overcrowding within the borough.”

 

When asked how the proposals will improve the lives of residents on the estate, the council explained:

“Over recent years, many residents of the Silchester estate have made various complaints about their homes and the estate ranging from problems with their heating, insulation, and windows to problems with the communal lifts and shared outside areas.”

“Any new redevelopment would aim to tackle all those problems and ensure that, unlike many of the post-war estates that were built with a 40 year life expectancy, the new properties are built to the highest standards delivering excellent homes for our current and future tenants.”

“The Council is also well aware of the many good qualities of the Silchester estate, such as the strong community and plentiful green space, and so if redevelopment goes ahead, it will endeavour to preserve and strengthen those qualities. At the same time, it is important to  remember that the Council also has a responsibility to the many hundreds of families currently housed in temporary accommodation, many outside the borough, and it is only by building new affordable homes on its own land that the Council can realistically hope to improve the lives of those families.”

Finally, the council vehemently denied the accusation that plans are an attempt to “socially cleanse” the area, describing the “socially cleansing meme” as “ugly and divisive” and without “basis in reality”.  When KCW Today recently spoke with London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, he agreed with the sentiments of RBKC, explaining that “this is a very divisive issue” for many Londoners, and “mostly for political reasons.”

 

 

For more information about the Silchester regeneration project visit the RBKC website: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/regenyour-neighbourhood/silchester-regeneration

Or visit the website of community activists Greenfell action group: https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/tag/silchester-estate/

Or the Silchester website:

http://www.silchesterestate.org.uk/

@henrytojones

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7 Comments

  1. RBKC have not given a firm guarantee to leaseholders that they can buy a property on the regenerated estate with shared equity. They have said this is only if the viability assessment shows it is possible. The greater likelihood is that leaseholders will not be able to remain. Older residents who bought in good faith under the Thatcher government’s Right-to Buy will be particularly penalised as they thought they were buying a home for life to leave to their children. Instead, if they buy with shared equity, the flat will go back to the Council to reimburse the shared equity payment. Also, longstanding tenants of the many flats on the estate bought as Buy-to-Let properties will not be rehoused, nor will adult children of secure tenants unless they can demonstrate that they are family carers. Our calculation is that almost 50% of the current diverse and united community will be displaced (“socially cleansed”) if the Council proposals go ahead as indicated.

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  2. 82 year old living in a 3 bed council flat – only being offered a one bed – come on love we have familys who need the council owned home you live in now

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    1. You’re alright, Jack, keep punching down. 82 year olds aren’t keeping you out of a council home, the Tories are. But it’s always easier to bully vulnerable people than to take some responsibility, eh?

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  3. The Council have been crying wolf for too long. No wonder we can’t believe them now even if they were telling the truth.
    The fact that they can’t guarantee “like for like” rehousing, and the fact that they use the resident’s complaints about “problems with their heating, insulation, and windows to problems with the communal lifts and shared outside areas.” As an excuse to blow up the entire estate is a clear proof of the false economy that they are so very good at implementing.
    The use of the word “regeneration” is a duplicity, good only to justify their lies to unsuspecting outsiders but it doesn’t fool people who have lived here for a long time and have witnessed their incompetence. What they call “affordable housing” is actually not affordable to the average Jill and Jo! Be it for rent or to buy, forcing people to move out which equals “social cleansing”
    If there are problems, the normal course action would be to fix them. It’s stupid to demolish a building just because the lift doesn’t work!
    It’s their philosophy of mismanagement, false economy and utter disrespect that has led to all the disrepair anyway. Of course they won’t admit to “social cleansing”. It’s not politically correct! They have a knack for misusing words to make it sound kind and respectful! The reality is far from what they let you believe. Councilor Melone has been known to say “if you can’t afford to live in Kensington then you should move out” or words to that effect. Equals “social cleansing”. He has also been heard to call some of the estates in North Kensington “The Ghettos”. Of course he is pushing for the so called “regeneration”- This would at least double the value of his own property which is literally a stone’s throw from Silchester. In that respect, he is using his expertise to secure his own investment not for the benefit of the people.

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  4. I have lived on the Silchester Estate with my family since 1992 (and in the general area of Notting Hill/Dale all my life). Since moving to the estate, there has been very little in terms of maintenance or upgrading throughout the block (I expect it is the same in other blocks), with the exception of window replacements in 1996, a kitchen refurbishment in 2006 and bathroom and toilet refurbishments in 2012. There is nothing wrong with the housing as such, it just needs a bit of TLC every once in a while.

    With regard to complaints made by the residents of the Silchester Estate making complaints about their homes and the estate, it would be helpful if they were acted on within a reasonable period of time. Or is this part of the plan; to let housing stock reach the point of disrepair, thus allowing the proposed regeneration of the estate to go through unopposed? When repairs are finally carried out, they are invariably of a sub-standard quality.

    Since 2014, I have had ongoing dealings with the TMO and some of the long list of repairs that need to made still have not been carried out; this despite intervention from our local MP. More worryingly, they have refused to take up flooring which contains unsafe materials (namely asbestos) as, I quote, “it is covered by carpet and any potential health risks are minimal”. I have no way of knowing if other residents have the same issues. I must add that some tiles were removed in 2014, but we had to wait nearly two months for them to be replaced, and were forced to take out storage space.

    With regard to antisocial behaviour on the estate, I can honestly say this has never been a major issue for me. Yes, from time to time, we do get groups of adolescents drinking and smoking on the stair wells, but that is probably more to do with the fact that they have nothing else to do… There are no youth clubs or activities on the estate as far as I am aware, so what option do they have?

    But, digressing, are the regeneration proposals a way of “cleansing” the area ? They want to move people out of their homes without guaranteeing them housing in the same area that most people will have spent most, if not all, their lives. Now that is “ugly and divisive”! The final comment from Zac Goldsmith was almost as inane as the man himself… “Mainly for political reason”? No, it’s about people not wanting to lose their homes, but should we expect anything more from a man who comes from a very privileged background? I may be wrong, perhaps he went to house parties in Markland House back in the day!

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  5. What do we like about our ‘Ghetto’ of a home? The three aspects of our home that we most like are:
    1. the very generous floor space
    2. the large amount of cupboard space
    3. the huge amount of outdoor space,

    We would want any reprovision to match those three aspects, floor, cupboard and outdoor space. Apparently, over two thirds of the blocks 1-17 Waynflete Square and 2-48 Shalfleet Drive are leasehold; this clearly indicates that a majority of people either liked their home enough to purchase it from the council, or, as in our case, to pay market value for it. Our home is warm, light and spacious, and well maintained and we have no wish to change it.
    Regarding our estate, the three things we most like are:
    1. living in a mixed, friendly community. We have many friends on the estate who are tenants and leaseholders and we are concerned that we will lose our community as the Council is only saying that “whenever viable” they will consider offering an equity share option to resident leaseholders.
    2. the large amount of green open space relative to the number of residents
    3. the fact that the open space is accessible to all. For over ten years we have had a community fun day in the centre of Waynflete Square and we love it that everyone can access the green space.

    Even were there to be a commitment to keep the same amount of green space on the estate, there would still be a reduction in space per resident if the density increases.

    The options that have been shown to residents are all variations on one theme leading up to the one ‘most favoured’ knock down all Council Owned and all other Housing Provider Properties and build from scratch. There has been no desire or work done by RBKC to show what the cost of refurbishment would be.

    We are not confident that the Council has any real desire to consult with or involve residents in this process, but we are still hoping that we may be proved wrong.

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  6. The Silcheste Estate is run down and in desperate need of redevelopment to breathe new life into the area. I fully support rebuilding and regenerating the entire estate.

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