BY TIM DICKENS & ZOE JEWELL, EDITORS
A judge today refused to hear a bid by Lambeth Council to bring an immediate injunction against an historic Brixton housing co-operative.
Judge Zimmer refused to hear the injunction application at Lambeth County Court, Kennington, yesterday, privately telling lawyers for the council he wasn’t happy to make injunctions “as back door possession orders”.
Lambeth wants members of the Carlton Mansion Housing Co-operative, in Coldharbour Lane, to leave immediately after a surprise fire inspection at the Victorian building discovered what the council calls an “intolerable” fire risk.
A possession order hearing, where the judge will decide whether or not the council can evict the co-operative, has now been brought forward to be heard by a judge on May 22. The council claims that the injunction application will be heard on the same day.
Speaking to Brixton Blog at court today, barrister Nicholas Grundy, representing Lambeth Council, said: “What the judge said is ‘I’m not happy to be making injunctions as back door possession orders.'”
“I had suggested that they (the council) could apply for injunctions against the residents. But I think bringing the possession hearing forward in light of the current situation is the way forward.
“By making an application for injunctions the people who occupy the building now know the serious risk from the fire assessment, and they know how seriously the council takes that risk.”
He added: “This has now given the occupants the opportunity to defend the claim, if they want to defend the claim.”
Members of the housing co-operative waited anxiously in court for three hours for the news. They were shocked to receive notice of the hearing yesterday, giving them almost no time to take legal advice before the hearing.
An injunction is one of the most draconian types of order you can seek and a judge will only grant it in very serious cases. If the injunction had been granted, it is possible that residents may have been arrested if they entered the building.
CMHC member Matthew said he thought the council’s bid to bring an injunction was “ill-advised.” He told the Blog: “It was designed to frighten people. Rightly the Judge stopped this proceeding further.”
Members of the Carlton Mansions Housing Co-operative, founded in 1979, were told to leave the 122-year-old building earlier this month after a fire report advised the building was unsafe. The council demanded “residents vacate the building as a priority”.
Cllr Rachel Heywood told the Brixton Blog and urban 75 site today: “The situation with Carlton mansions has moved extremely rapidly and with less time for discussion and the exploration of alternative options than I, personally, would have wished for.”
“In fact my preference is that we continue to work productively with CMHC to develop a good solution for the redevelopment of Somerleyton rd which includes CMHC. There is no reason why we cannot continue to do this, but nor can we ignore the gravity of the findings of the fire risk assessment. This has placed an urgent duty upon the council to vacate the building because of “intolerable” levels of risk.”
The Co-operative was sent a leaflet for temporary hostel accommodation which would cost £268.53 a week plus an amenity charge of £18.25 for a room.
In recent months, locals across the borough have been protesting against Lambeth Council’s current policy of evicting housing co-operatives and selling on its short-life housing stock.
Co-operative members have asked for help from the local community to help them store their possessions, spare rooms or legal help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to contact the Co-op.
*This article was edited at 3.45pm on May 1 after Brixton Blog was contacted by Lambeth council.