Is regeneration at any cost progress?
Barnet Council approved planning application and has entered into an agreement with Barratt London and Metropolitan Housing Trust [Barratt Metropolitan] to knock down and regenerate the West Hendon Housing Estate.
As anyone who has seen the estate knows it is in dire need of updating, but what not everyone knows is that this is because of Barnet Council’s lack of investment, failure to manage essential repairs and maintenance.
In about 2002 Barnet Council balloted the residents of the estate on regeneration, based on pledges they made to us. Several residents, voted for regeneration as they were in favour of progress and the terms Barnet offered seemed reasonable, so why not?
Barnet Council then went ahead with their plans and designated the estate a regeneration area. The effect was that existing leaseholders were unable to sell their properties, as banks and building societies were unwilling to lend money on properties they were told were going to be pulled down.
The original plans fell apart due to planning issues and the housing market recession, so leaseholders have been stuck in limbo for the last 12 years, unable to sell and move on, and at the same time liable for repair and major works bills under the terms of our leases.
An example of this is the current £10,000 bill that most leaseholders received for electrical and other works being done on buildings that are condemned for destruction. Why are the Council doing this? The simple answer is because they can, it’s in our leases that we have to pay for repairs, and unfortunately the leases don’t make exceptions for stupidity. As council taxpayers, you might find it strange your money is being wasted … strange but true.
The regeneration process is going to affect all the residents living on the estate, in different ways.
Secured tenants are in the prime position, as they are guaranteed re-housing. Leaseholders will also be in a position to receive either a payment or a new flat. Unsecured tenants will just be moved on in a modern twist called economic cleansing, as it appears that the council would like to transform a social housing [council] estate into a commercial residential estate in order to change the profile of the area. The estate is next to the Edgware Road, in a prime location with the M1, M25, A1 and A406 all within easy reach, and a Tube station and a rail station within walking distance. This all adds up to a money-making opportunity for developers, but at who’s expense?
This is the 21st century, so why are the council and developers treating us like 20th-century slum lords would have done? Why are they gentrifying a prime location at the expense of the poorer people, less able to defend themselves?
These are some of our concerns:
All residents with two-bedroom maisonettes have approximately 80 sq metres of living space; in the new development they will be reduced to approximately 74.1 Sq metres. Leaseholders were pledged like for like, new for old, which doesn’t mean a 74.1 sq metre flat to replace an 80-sq- metre maisonette, and to go from being sole owners [under lease] to shared equity partners. This form of new for old equates to less: less space, less of a share in the flat.
The current 680 units of social housing will be replaced by 2000 flats, but of those not enough units earmarked to accommodate secured tenants and leaseholders, and unsecured tenants will be moved off the estate to enable more flats to be sold to the private sector for profit.
The 2000 or more flats will be provided with 1665 parking spaces. Is this a concession to environmentalists? Call me cynical, but I think it’s an opportunity for the council to make money from parking permits from now until the next regeneration.
If Barnet Council are doing a stock transfer of their properties to Metropolitan Housing, why are we not being offered a ballot, which we are entitled to? Is this privatisation by stealth?
The Welsh Harp is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Since the start of the development the habitat has changed to such an extent that the wildlife is already disappearing,
I will finish where I started, Is regeneration at any cost progress?
Founder, The Peoples Power West Hendon Group
A non-political group dedicated to the welfare of the residents of the West Hendon Housing Estate.