Inside the Cressingham Gardens hearing

Cressingham residents protest
Cressingham residents protest Picture ©Louis Leeson

Royal Courts of Justice signThe campaign to save Cressingham Gardens, the low-rise estate overlooking Brockwell Park that is threatened with demolition and redevelopment by Lambeth council, has published two long reports of the judicial review of council decisions about the estate.

Cressingham tenant Eva Bokrosova is challenging the council cabinet’s decision on 9 March this year to rule out of consideration of refurbishment options for the estate, saying it was made without financial analysis and without properly taking account of the results of consultation workshops, including ones looking at ways of funding necessary repairs which the council says are too expensive.

Her lawyers are asking Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing, to quash the council’s decision and order the consultation to be run again.

Written by an estate resident, the reports say that:

  • During protracted questioning by Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing, barrister Jon Holbrook, defending for the council, admitted that it “developed” how resident opinion was presented. The judge had asked him: “Is your submission that Lambeth set out a process of consultation and then when it got the feeling it wasn’t going the way it wanted to, it decided to change it?”
  • Despite many requests over at least seven months, senior council officers failed to produce a “show-stopping” document purporting to prove conclusively  that the council could not afford to repair the estate. Neil Vokes, Lambeth council’s programme director for strategic capital programmes, only offered to make the internal message available on the first day of the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this month. He apologised to the court, saying: “It was a case of me overlooking the document”. He blamed his oversight on the hundreds of emails he receives each day and his attention being spread across all six Lambeth estates earmarked for “regeneration”. The judge said: “What’s surely surprising is there have been three opportunities to produce it or if it wasn’t going to be produced in response to the Freedom Of Information request, it is the council’s duty of candour [in these proceedings].” Mr Holbrook replied: “Indeed, yes.”
  • David Wolfe. QC, for Ms Bokrosova, told the court: “It [the council] was consulting on five possible options for the regeneration of the estate, leading to a decision on one of those. What it didn’t explain it would do, but did do, was to half way through that process, remove three of the options.
  • In his witness statement, attempting to explain why discussions were closed down, Mr Vokes suggested an opponent of the council’s plans, Gerlinde Gniewosz, was asking too many questions. He highlighted a note of meeting he suggested Ms Gniewosz had written but which was, in fact, written by a financial adviser indirectly hired by the council. Mr Vokes said in his statement: “The problem was, that Ms Gniewosz challenged so many of the underlying assumptions and numbers.”

The two reports on the savecressingham blog run to nearly 8,000 words, you can read them here:

Report 1

Report 2