Dozens of angry residents marched from their Brixton estate to Lambeth Town Hall today to demand that the council reviews a contract for a £150million regeneration of their close-knit community.
They claim lives are being put at risk by safety lapses during the building of 808 new homes, and the refurbishment of 127 more on the Myatts Field North estate.
The regeneration – lauded by Lambeth Council – is being carried out by a consortium of companies – called Regenter Myatts Field North – under a 25-year private finance initiative (PFI) contract. The area has been rebranded as the “Oval Quarter” for the development, which includes 357 homes sold at market value and 156 for shared ownership.
The estate is currently in the middle of the five-year construction project. Of the 305 properties being demolished, 247 are social rented homes, which will all re-provided as new-build social rented properties. The remaining 58 demolition properties are owned by leaseholders and are also being re-provided.
One resident and council tenant, Stephen Hack, told the Brixton Blog: “There are numerous issues over health and safety. There is a a very poor standard in both the new homes and the refurbished ones. We have vulnerable neighbours on the estate who have been without hot water for three months.
“Some leaseholders are being forced out as they can’t afford the new homes, and we’re all paying for it with higher rents. This is about our homes, our families and our health.”
Hack demanded that the council re-examine the contract with consortium. He added: “Action has to be taken now for our safety and the safety of our children – and we want guarantees of no evictions of leaseholders or tenants on the estate.”
The Regenter consortium revealed to Brixton Blog that since May 2012 there have been seven “low-level” health and safety incidents.
A statement handed to the council and addressed to leader Cllr Lib Peck demanded that she attend a meeting with residents to discuss their concerns and to regulate the work on the estate.
The statement added: “We want a genuine attempt to treat residents with more respect.”
When contacted by the Brixton Blog, Lambeth Council declined to comment on the protests, referring us instead to a PR company for the Regenter consortium. It did not say whether Cllr Peck would attend a meeting with residents.
A spokesman for Regenter claimed it was working closely with the residents of the estate. “Carrying out a large scale project in a live residential area inevitably incurs some level of disruption for the community,” he said.
The consortium stressed that it takes all health and safety responsibilities seriously: “Any health and safety incidents are reported immediately to the Local Authority and, if applicable, to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). An unannounced visit by the HSE noted only minor observations.”
“It is our desire to keep the community together and we are working hard to support residents who have engaged with us to assist them through this transformation. Regrettably, in a small minority of cases successful transition between old and new properties has been prevented by either personal circumstances or the refusal of residents to engage with us.”