Residents threatened with the compulsory purchase of their homes have criticised plans for the regeneration of the Heygate estate in the Elephant & Castle district of south-east London. Many people who have bought flats and houses on council-owned estates elsewhere could be facing similar threats in the not-too-distant future.
The Heygate estate was one of those typical 1970’s redevelopments which were supposed to provide homes accessible to people of all incomes, according to the dreams of the town planners. While these dreams may not have materialised in the way the planners envisaged, some residents were happy enough to have purchased their homes from the council.
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£1. 5bn regeneration scheme planned but “affordable housing not guaranteed”
But now Southwark Council, which owns the estate, says the stairwells and dark alleys on the development have turned into areas which encouraged crime and anti-social behaviour. It has entered into a £1. 5bn regeneration scheme with property giant Lend Lease, and plans to replace the estate with 2, 400 new homes.
Even before detailed plans were submitted for this new development the council has been rehousing its social housing tenants, and has already started demolishing some of the blocks of flats. But not everyone has been willing to move. According to the BBC, Southwark Council has now issued compulsory purchase orders to the five leaseholders remaining, at least two of whom still live on the estate.
Lend Lease has now submitted a detailed planning application for the first phase of the regeneration scheme, which includes plans for 235 new homes on a 1. 1 hectare site. Southwark's planning committee is expected to consider the application later in the year, following a consultation on the proposals.
Displaced residents won’t be able to afford new homes
Leaseholders point out that this latest planning application has no affordable housing guaranteed, despite the council saying there is a "contractual minimum to provide 25% affordable housing. " A spokesman for the Heygate Leaseholders Group is quoted as saying "Residents are being displaced and the housing is being replaced with a citadel of luxury housing we won't be able to afford. "
This problem could soon face homeowners who have bought properties on similar estates throughout the country. Council tenants were encouraged under ‘right-to-buy’ legislation to purchase the homes which they had been renting, with substantial discounts being available to long-term tenants. Many of these original owners will have sold on, with buyers assuming that they would own the property in the same way as any other private owner.
But the fact is that such post-war council developments were not always well-built, and many are now reaching the end of their useful life. Estates built in the 1960s and 1970s are often run-down and poorly maintained, and have often become a by-word for failed planning.
Owners on other council estates also face compulsory purchase threat
Councils faced with the cost and difficulty of refurbishing such areas are now more than likely to want to sweep their past mistakes away, and turn to property developers for wholesale regeneration schemes. While social housing tenants may be re-housed, private owners will face the prospect of having their homes compulsorily purchased by the council.
Although owners should be able to get market value for their properties under compulsory purchase law, they often get less – and they can face an uphill battle even then. So it is more than likely that they will not be able to afford another property in the same area – perhaps somewhere they have lived for all their lives.
While Southwark council has said that it will re-house those owners who cannot afford to purchase another property, this will mean that they return to being tenants and having to pay a monthly rent – surely this defeats the whole object of buying a home!