Cressingham Gardens redevelopment approved

Lambeth Council’s Cabinet has approved a recommendation to redevelop the Cressingham Gardens estate, as part of plans to provide more and better homes for the people of the borough.

At a meeting on Monday, Councillors decided that “Option 5”, full redevelopment, offered the best alternative for the future of the estate. The decision, which follows a lengthy process of testing and consultation with residents, will allow Lambeth to replace the 306 homes on Cressingham Gardens with a minimum of 464 new properties – a net gain of 158 new homes.

All existing council tenants would get a new home, at council rent levels, with a lifetime tenancy – meaning there would be no loss of social housing. Of the 158 extra homes, 47 per cent would be affordable, including at least 27 extra family-sized homes at council rent.

Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

“Rebuilding Cressingham Gardens will mean all homes on the estate will be rebuilt, with no loss of social housing. The proposal would provide a new home for each tenant, at council rent levels, with a lifetime tenancy and enough rooms to meet their needs.

“It will also mean at least 158 extra homes, 47 per cent of which will be affordable homes. It will mean at least 75 extra homes for rent for families on Lambeth’s waiting list of over 21,000 people, and it would mean at least 27 extra family-sized homes for council.”

The Council began the process of consulting residents over the future of the estate in 2012, amid complaints that a number of properties were in poor condition. Five options – ranging from full refurbishment to full redevelopment – were put forward for consideration.

Three refurbishment options were subsequently withdrawn last March, after it was decided that they were unaffordable and, in July, the Council’s Cabinet voted to redevelop the entire estate.

However, the consultation process was restarted last month after a judicial review ruling that the process the Council followed to reach those decisions was incorrect, and it had been wrong to withdraw the three refurbishment options.

Residents were asked for their views on all original alternative proposals at a series of events, including an exhibition on the five options. Their feedback was included in the report to Cabinet, and a number of residents spoke at the meeting.

All options were assessed against a series of criteria, including their financial viability and the number of new properties they would provide – including affordable and council-rent homes. Cressingham Gardens has been included in Lambeth’s estate regeneration programme, which aims to provide more and better homes to help tackle the borough’s housing crisis.

It was judged that Options 1-4 did not meet the criteria for a number of reasons. For example, they would have to be funded from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), they did not represent value for money, or they did not provide enough additional new homes to help meet Lambeth’s housing need.

Council officers judged that only the option of full rebuilding that could both deliver better homes for existing residents but also increases the number of homes, particularly genuinely affordable rented homes, in the depths of a severe housing crisis.

Option 5 would replace all homes on Cressingham Gardens with new homes – and provide at least 158 more properties – and it is not constrained by the financial circumstances of the Housing Revenue Account.

A further proposal, named the ‘People’s Plan’, was put forward during the process and considered by the Cabinet. This includes refurbishment and providing new homes in underground car parks under people’s homes. The Council assessment of the plan, on both feasibility and finances, found that it could not be considered a practical option as:

  • No evidence has been provided confirming that there is the grant funding available to the level required to fund the proposals;
  • It relies on funding from the Housing Revenue Account and does not, therefore, resolve the question of how to fund refurbishment of the estate;
  • As a result this does not make best use of the funding available in the Housing Revenue Account and therefore it doesn’t represent value for money.

Cllr Bennett added:

“The ‘People’s Plan’ is a lengthy submission and clearly a lot of work went into it, but it is not something we could place our faith in and endorse as a Cabinet. It does not address the financial position of the HRA or demonstrate the ability to build the sort of high-quality additional homes that we need to meet the needs of local families.”