Housing and schools campaigners stage town hall protest

By Kaye Wiggins

Campaiger Chris Blake outside Lambeth town hall. Picture by Matthew Griffiths

Protesters gathered outside Brixton’s town hall to challenge the council over the sale of “shortlife” housing and of Lambeth college’s Brixton site.

After staging a noisy demonstration outside the building on Wednesday, the groups took to the council chamber to make their case in front of councillors.

Julian Hall, a member of the Lambeth United Housing Co-op and a resident of “shortlife” housing, used a speech to councillors to call for a rethink of plans to sell off the housing, which has been maintained by its residents on a co-operative basis since being left empty by Lambeth council in the 1970s.

His fellow campaigner Chris Blake told the Blog: “I’m here because of the shabby way Lambeth Council has treated Maritza [Tschepp, a long-term “shortlife” tenant who is facing eviction].

“She’s lived in that home for over 33 years. If it wasn’t for her he home wouldn’t be standing. Yet they’re handing it to property developers.

“Lambeth doesn’t have a shortage of property developers but it does have a shortage of housing.”

‘Shortlife’ housing resident Julian Hall. Picture by Matthew Griffiths

In response to the campaigners, Labour councillor Pete Robbins said: “It’s uneconomical to bring shortlife housing back into use as social housing.

“All receipts [from the sale of the housing] go into the capital pot of Lambeth council which is invested in schools, libraries, roads and housing.

“We have families with children who are statutorily homeless and they are our priority.”

This month’s Brixton Bugle reported that the council expects to make nearly £27m from the sale of “shortlife” housing, including the Rushcroft Road site where violent scenes erupted last summer as bailiffs and police evicted residents.

Also at the meeting, education campaigner Alex Owolade called on the council to stop the sale of the Lambeth College site on Brixton Hill.

“We’re here to fight to save quality education in Lambeth,” he said.

However, deputy leader of Lambeth Jackie Meldrum said the council had little power to stop the changes.

“Lambeth College is an independent body and the council has no say in the use or sale of the site,” she said.

As campaigners in the public gallery shouted “cop out” and “you do have control, you’re the local council”, Cllr Meldrum suggested the campaigners should “take it up with Michael Gove directly”.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The money the council will get from the sales of shortlife properties is not going into a special money pot for housing, they can spend it on anything they want, you may or may not trust that all of it will go to housing. Certainly they spend plenty in aggressive court action giving short lifers a rough ride to the eventual doom of our fantastic, well established communities. Between us we have nose bleeds and cold sores just before going to court, some can’t even cope with going, some are having panic attacks, breakdowns etc. It’s a shameful policy and of course you’ve seen the colossal wages some officers are getting.

  2. The reasons for the shortage of housing in Lambeth and generally in London are many and complex but the problem will not be solved by Labour politicians like Mr Robbins giving property developers a free lunch. Maritza Tschepp and many others are being forced from the homes they have looked after for decades as a piece of crisis management but I’m sure that the shortfall in housing provision will become even more acute in future years–after Pete Robbins and Lib Peck have moved on. It’s time for both local and national government to apply some creative thinking and remove impediments to house building rather than victimising the people they are employed to represent.

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