The decisions that show that estate renewal is not dead

A residents' ballot result and a compulsory purchase order (CPO) decision highlight the importance of keeping the public on board in estate regeneration plans, experts suggest.

Approval: Barnet residents voted for redevelopment
Approval: Barnet residents voted for redevelopment

Last week, 75 per cent of residents on Barnet’s Westhorpe Gardens and Mills Grove estate voted in favour of redevelopment plans proposed by housing association Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTV). The ballot was the first held under rules introduced by London mayor Sadiq Khan in July requiring estate regeneration plans to be approved by residents before funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) will be provided. The estate’s 102 flats will now be demolished to make way for around 250 new homes.

In the same week, communities secretary James Brokenshire approved a CPO paving the way for a 3,500-home redevelopment of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark (DCS Number 200-008-044). Following an inquiry last winter, inspector Martin Whitehead accepted that the council had identified a "range" of rehousing options and had "undertaken extensive engagement with residents during the process".

Liz Mason, a senior director at CBRE, said both outcomes illustrate the importance of community engagement in estate regeneration projects. In particular, she said, the vote at the Barnet estate offers some reassurance to observers involved in the field. "When resident ballots were introduced, it caused quite a lot of nervousness," said Mason. "This is the first one through and it’s proving that it can work."

Guy Burnett, MTV’s executive director of development, said consultation on the proposals for the Barnet site began seven months before the ballot. Residents helped shape details such as the amount of storage space in homes, parking and the provision of outside space, he said: "Gaining their input was key from the outset."

At the Aylesbury Estate, where a previous CPO bid was rejected by Brokenshire’s predecessor Sajid Javid on human rights grounds two years ago, Southwark Council was still negotiating with the leaseholders of just one property by the time he approved the CPO. Francis Taylor Building barrister Melissa Murphy, who represented Southwark Council, stressed the importance of continuing to engage with residents even when negotiations get tough. "There is no point in the process at which it is sensible to give up on coming to agreement," she said.

According to Ciron Edwards, director of engagement at consultants Iceni Projects, resident buy-in has now become a prerequisite for estate regeneration schemes. "Councils can’t avoid that level of scrutiny," he said. He noted that Kingston Council has committed to a binding vote on plans to redevelop the 865-home Cambridge Road estate, even though GLA funding has already been secured.


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