Thirty years of Brixton’s creative history came to an abrupt end this week when Lambeth council evicted the last residents of the Carlton Mansions housing co-operative (CMHC).
The Blog was there as Bailiffs arrived at the Coldharbour Lane mansion block at 9.45am on Tuesday, changing locks and securing the building. It marks the end of a long and exhausting battle between a strong community of residents and Lambeth council’s ‘Shortlife’ housing officers.
The council has claimed the building poses an unacceptable fire risk to occupants, and it is earmarked to be redeveloped as part of the Somerleyton Road regeneration.
Chair of the Carlton Mansions co-op, Matthew Clarke, told The Brixton Blog he was angry with the way bailiffs took control of the building on September 30, despite him co-operating fully with the handover.
He said: “It was unnecessary and unpleasant. Typical of the way that Lambeth have pursued this from the start.
“It’s been unrelenting and aggressively pursued by Lambeth for the past year. They have the resources and power to grind residents down if they wish.”
Clarke continued: “I am sad to see the Mansions emptied out. It’s more than just a building to me. It is full of character and in a way has its own personality. The Mansions has seen the whole of Brixton’s history since the railway came.”
Lambeth cabinet member for housing, cllr Matthew Bennett, said: “The council made it a priority to find alternative homes for those occupants eligible for rehousing and we have been in constant communication with Carlton Mansions residents over many months.
“Carlton Mansions is a key element of the Somerleyton Road regeneration, which will bring hundreds of affordable homes, new work space and a theatre to the centre of Brixton.
“However, the building will need to be made safe before it can be used for this purpose. We have therefore commissioned a further building condition survey and a fire risk assessment, which will help us decide how we can use Carlton Mansions in the interests of the entire
community in the future.”
Deborah Bestwick, director of the Ovalhouse Theatre which will move close to the site as part of the plans said she had been supporting residents of the co-op and welcomed their input into consulations over what will happen on the site in the future.
CMHC started life 32 years ago on a temporary agreement with the council as short life housing. Reflecting on his time with the community, Clarke said: “We have looked after the Mansions for 30 years and handed it back to Council in an orderly fashion. We have ended it with our dignity.”
Read more about the plans for Somerleyton Road at Future Brixton site.