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Sadiq Khan vows to put local people ‘at heart of estate regeneration’

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London mayor Sadiq Khan has published a draft ‘good practice guide’ for estate regeneration across the capital, in which he pledges to put residents first and to protect social housing

In the guide, Khan states successful regeneration should offer the right to return for displaced tenants, adding that where demolition of an estate is required, this should only happen where it does not result in the loss of social housing ‘or where all other options have been exhausted’.

This rule would apply to schemes seeking new funding from the Greater London Authority. 

Khan acknowledged that the demolition and rebuilding of estates is a ’time-consuming, expensive and highly disruptive process’, and added that ‘alternative ways’ of regeneration should be considered first, including refurbishment and infill, or a combination of options. 

The mayor’s draft guidance comes just days after the government pledged an extra £32 million of funding for estate regeneration, and unveiled a new national strategy. 

Hari Phillips, director of Bell Phillips Architects, praised the document for seeking options other than the complete demolition and rebuilding of housing estates.  

’The popular misconception that all housing estates are intrinsically flawed and that the only way to address this is by large-scale demolition and rebuild is not correct. Many estates are built to good densities, have solid housing stock, and accommodate thriving, mixed communities,’ he said.

He added: ‘It’s pleasing to see a report that recognises that the housing crisis is more than just a race to provide “units” but is fundamentally about creating and retaining communities and putting people first.’

The guide, developed with councils, housing associations and residents’ groups, also states that residents should be involved at the ‘earliest stages of a project’, and should continue throughout the scheme and afterwards.

Khan wrote: ‘It is vital that residents know when and how they can be involved in decision-making so that they are empowered and motivated to engage with what is being considered.’

However, Sian Berry, a Green Party London Assembly member, said that Khan’s recommendations were ‘vague and more or less useless’ for residents wanting to hold councils to account over estate regeneration.

The mayor should go back to the drawing board

She said: ‘The mayor should go back to the drawing board. Even the government produced more useful guidelines last week, which set out clear steps for landlords and councils in a way that was at least specific and transparent, even if it didn’t give practical power to residents to make their own plans.’

‘This draft from the Mayor actually tells councils not to waste their time consulting on “non-viable” options when the right time to go to residents is before you have developed any options at all.’

At one point the guide suggests councils should use a ‘real time’ assessment of the acceptability of the proposals, adding that there was a ’potential reason for caution’ around residents using a ballot system, because they could risk turning a ‘complex set of issues’ affecting different people into a ’simple “yes/no” decision’. 

But Berry argued that by not using ballots, councils would consider residents views and ’then explain why they’re going ahead anyway’.

The guidelines will be out for consultation for three months – and all Londoners are invited to submit their comments – before a final revised guide will be published in spring 2017.

It will be included in the conditions for City Hall funding for new estate regeneration schemes and will be applied to the planning system ‘where possible’. 

Of the document, Khan, said: ‘When done well, regeneration can be a positive way of protecting and improving housing estates in our great city. It offers the chance to improve the quality of housing and nearby public space, as well as building more and new affordable homes.

‘Many councils are developing good practice in examples of estate regenerations across the capital. Through this guide, I want to bring together the approaches that have worked well.’

View the draft guidance here 

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