Church Street Labour Councillor Barbara Grahame says:
- 78% children lived in income deprived households
- 22% residents were overcrowded
- 19% unemployed
- The life expectancy gap between Church Street and Knightsbridge was around 12 years
- The council owned 80% land in the Ward as the predominant freeholder so had the power to intervene and develop.
So why not regenerate? A Futures Plan was developed in 2011, taken to Cabinet, procrastinated, an infrastructure plan followed and in May 2013, 87% residents in a 25.5% turnout voted in favour of the council’s regeneration proposal. That’s actually a fantastic turnout for a ballot of this kind.
So, an ideal situation for the Council: well informed residents and stakeholders who voted in favour of redevelopment, who understood the challenges of decants and demolition. And the council as landlord owned all the development land. So, what could go wrong?
What has been achieved against target outcomes?
The target outcomes were:
- Between 275 and 315 new private and affordable homes spread over 4 sites, plus the re-provision of an old peoples’ home;
- Improvement to retained blocks closest to the development sites
- Improved community and health facilities and a new children’s play space
- Alongside an improved Church Street Market, improved public realm and greening, better maintenance, and targeted local employment.
What is to be seen on the ground?
- Today, in 2017, only 3 new exemplar flats have been built, massively over cost so they cannot be replicated.
- Contractors still scrabbling underground to dig foundations for the new old people’s home whilst the old people wonder if they’ll still be alive by the target completion date of 2019.
- The valuable Luton Street and Cosway Street sites have been left undeveloped because of council delays and indecision.
- Just one community facility completed, Tresham House, now a hive of activity with 2 nurseries, a play centre including disabled children, and an Evangelical Church on the roof. Wonderful, but clearly nowhere near expectations.
And of course, in the meantime the property market has moved downwards so valuable sites will not generate the estimated funds to pay for affordable housing and other benefits.
There is a feeling in Church Street that the council is actually frightened of taking the next step.
The Council’s new Masterplan is being developed in near secrecy. It will be ‘launched’ in September hidden from view, inside 99 Church Street, to invited guests and the minimum residents.
Church Street Labour Councillors say – Get a move on and start building!”