Residents of Cressingham Gardens estate have accused Lambeth council of “grossly inflating” the estimated cost of refurbishing their estate.
They say the real price-tag will be half of the council’s proposed figure of £14 million.
The dispute over costs erupted at a meeting between Cressingham residents’ representatives and officials of Lambeth council and Lambeth Living, the housing stock managers, on January 26.
At the meeting residents said an independent surveyor had estimated the cost of refurbishment as only £7 million. The representatives also say that when challenged, Lambeth Living was unable to justify how it had worked out its costs.
“They couldn’t explain why they were allocating £4,000 for kitchen renewals,” said resident representative Gerlinde Gniewosz. “Yet last year they signed a contract… which showed a complete new kitchen would cost a maximum of £2,000.”
The battle over Cressingham Gardens first erupted following the Council’s announcement, in 2012, of regeneration plans for the estate that could involve its partial demolition.
The council says regeneration is necessary as many of the flats are in a poor state. The plans include five options for Cressingham that range from repairing existing properties to complete demolition.
The council favours an option that involves demolishing half the estate, on which they would build new housing.
But the proposal is opposed by residents who are in favour of refurbishment. “We really enjoy living on the estate – we don’t want to leave. There is true community spirit here,” said resident Pam Douglas.
At the meeting, residents questioned the calculations used to produce the council’s £14 million figure. “Lambeth are saying sorting out windows on the estate would cost £1.7 million but they were only installed 10 years ago and are supposed to last 30 years,” added Gniewosz. “Some need to be fixed, but it is completely unfounded to say they all need to replaced.”
“We also questioned the £150,000 allocated for drainage that was apparently based on ‘surveys’. Yet they could not provide any survey for reference. It seems as though Lambeth would prefer the cost of refurbishment to be a higher figure, so it can push ahead with plans for demolition.”
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “We are working very closely with Cressingham Gardens residents on getting homes on the estate up to the Lambeth Housing Standard. At the same time we are examining if new flats or houses could be built on the estate as part of our pledge to make 1,000 new homes across the borough available for council rent.
“As part of our work with residents on the refurbishment of Cressingham Gardens they have produced their own costings for the project. We will thoroughly test those figures, and will be looking to make both savings and get the best value for money.”