Kit Malthouse has approved a resident group’s proposal to take over a south London estate at the centre of a long-running battle with Lambeth Council over plans for its demolition
In a rare move, the housing minister has decided that the process to transfer architect Ted Hollamby’s Cressingham Gardens estate in Tulse Hill to the Cressingham Gardens Community (CGC) can begin.
The approval is the first step in the long process of transferring the estate to community ownership, which will still require raising funds to buy the properties, as well as a full development proposal.
Ruling on the request, first made in 2016, Malthouse rejected Lambeth Council’s objections that the stock transfer would have a ’detrimental effect’ on the area’s regeneration.
Instead, he said he agreed with a government-commissioned report on the estate, which found the council had not made enough ‘concrete progress’ on redeveloping the estate for a transfer to have a detrimental impact.
’The outcome of my determination … is that the stock transfer process in relation to the CGC should continue,’ Malthouse said.
Campaigners from the 306-home estate have welcomed the decision, with resident Tom Keene calling it ’‘major news’.
He added: ‘It has come out of the blue and we’re really pleased. This will transfer the building and land of the estate into a community owned and run organisation.’
He said the next steps included drawing up feasibility proposals and coming up with a development plan which residents will then vote on.
A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: ‘This announcement was based on information submitted in 2016 and we will need time to consider the implications.
‘We are, however, pleased that the government has recognised the council’s plans to rebuild the estate will have a “positive impact on the area covered by the estate” and we remain committed to rebuilding Cressingham Gardens to provide better homes for existing residents and more homes for people on the council house waiting list.’
The Cressingham residents already have their own alternative proposal for the estate, called the People’s Plan and drawn up in 2016 with local architect Variant Office. It includes refurbishing the existing homes and building 33 new homes for social rent.
The decision letter stated that under both the council’s proposals and the People’s Plan, there was likely to be a ‘positive impact on the area covered by the estate’.
‘The scale of potential impacts on the housing supply and local economy is likely to be greater under Lambeth’s redevelopment proposal, as it is proposing to deliver 120 more additional homes compared to the People’s Plan.
‘However, there is not enough evidence to suggest that the difference would have a significant detrimental effect on the local area’.
The socio-economic report on which Malthouse based his decision was completed in December 2017, and it is unclear why the government took so long to come to a decision.
The stock transfer approval is the latest twist in a long-running saga over Lambeth Council’s controversial plans to regenerate the 1960s low rise estate.
The estate was designed by Lambeth’s then director of architecture Ted Hollamby and has been hailed as ‘unique’ by the Twentieth Century Society. It comprises 306 homes interspersed around a series of connected walkways.
In 2015, Lambeth was forced to rerun its consultation on the estate redevelopment after the High Court found the council had broken the law in its consultation with tenants.
The consultation was rerun and in 2017, multidisciplinary consultant Mott Macdonald was appointed to lead the development of the estate, working with architect Conran and Partners.
But Malthouse rejected a stock transfer request by the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, earmarked for demolition by developer Capco. He turned down a bid by West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes’ (WKGGCH) to take over the estate from Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
The Right to Transfer
Under the Right to Transfer local authorities are required to co-operate with a group of tenants that want to explore transferring their housing stock to a new social landlord.
It must then arrange a transfer if proposals are supported by a majority of tenants voting in favour in a ballot.
Both the local authority and the tenant group can apply to the Secretary of State for a ”determination” to halt or continue the process. The local authority can apply at any time for a determination on the grounds that the proposed transfer will have a significant detrimental effect on the provision of housing services in the area of the authority or regeneration of the area.