Author: Cyril Richert
The Clapham Junction Action Group has sent a contribution building the case against the Winstanley and York Road regeneration plans push forward by Wandsworth Council. In this (long) article, we not only present the full arguments developed in the report, but we also deal with the enormous money pocketed by the Council with this development and the apathy and lack of ambition of the local Labour party.
We support the principle of regenerating the Winstanley and York Road Estates. The estates have been neglected by the local authorities and in the recent decade the area has been rightly labelled “one of the most deprived estates in the borough”.
However, we consider that the consultations have been conducted as a meaningless statutory obligation, that legitimate local resident concerns were systematically dismissed or simply ignored, and that the whole scheme has been conducted by Wandsworth Council with a partisan political agenda in mind. Allowing such plan would contribute to deteriorate further the already poor level of trust expressed by communities towards local government.
Green light from Sadiq Khan
The phased demolition of most of the existing buildings of Winstanley and York Road estates, being replaced by a huge development, providing 2550 residential units in blocks ranging from three to 32 storeys, has been given a green light by the Mayor of London.
In March 2019, the Mayor of London delegated the decision on the first review of the Council’s scheme for Winstanley and York Road estates. The first report (stage 1) supported the overall design strategy but required more scrutiny on the provision of housing. It also recommended that the Council updates its policy to protect the new open space created (2.49 hectares, a loss of locally designated open space compared to existing) to ensure that it benefits from appropriate policy protection in the future.
In a second report (stage 2) on 23 November 2020, Sadiq Khan himself ratified the formal approval from City Hall.
Undercover “social cleansing” organised by Wandsworth Council
The detail of the existing and plan provision shows a decrease of social units, and an increase of … 800% of private units!
The full detail of existing and proposed housing provision is available in the planning report published by the GLA on 18 March 2019 (GLA/4428a/01)It shows a DECREASE in the number social rent units by 8% (from 527 to 484) and a staggering INCREASE in the number of Market and shared value units up 800% (from 218 to 1,966). Even if we add the number of affordable rent units to the number of social units, there is a small increase of 8%, while the whole site will see an increase of housing of 236%.
The report from the GLA acknowledges the figures, but considered that is balanced by the increase of space per unit. they say:
“Whilst it is recognised that there is a loss of social rented units (-43 units), this is because the existing social rented stock comprises smaller units which have since become overcrowded. The proposed scheme, which now seeks to provide larger units, has resulted in a decrease in the number of units but an increase by habitable rooms and floorspace. […] on this basis, the loss of social rented units is considered acceptable”
This presentation is clearly biased in favour of social cleansing. It is interesting to quote a recent planning report (Wandsworth p.a. 2020/2560):
“The applicant has also submitted a Co Living Needs Assessment. The Assessment outlines that 17,500 households in the local area are living in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) […] At the median household income of those households living in the PRS only 44% could afford a 1 bed PRS property.”
Therefore, while more than half of the population cannot afford a private sector rent, what is the choice of Wandsworth Council? To decrease the number of social housing, and barely improve the quota of affordable, while hugely increasing the provision of private rent units!
NB: For transparency, we have chosen not to include Shared Equity in the number of affordable units. Indeed, the report from the GLA itself states: “The proposals comprise 38% affordable housing (by habitable room) on-site, made up of 55% social rent, 45% intermediate (shared ownership and discount market rent). However, this figure includes the 86 shared equity units and it is questioned whether they would meet the affordable housing definition within the London Plan and draft London Plan.“
When looking at the evolution of the tenure proposed along the project, we also see that further increase of size and density has always be pushed in favour of the private sector: the proposed new housing numbers in 2017 (Council paper 17-174) show that the target of 530 social rent has now been reduced to 484, while the open market sale has increased from 1148 to 1658!
In 2012, CJAG denounced a factual plan from Peabody to minimise the cost of regenerating their Battersea – St John’s Hill estate by decreasing the social rent quota and selling half of the new development to market rent. Our submission demonstrated that Peabody Trust began, some years before their application, reducing the number of social tenants in their estate, and leasing some of the flats on a short term basis, so they could be emptied and used to relocate tenants during the different phases of the project. They reduced the number of social tenants from 353 to 225, and therefore it seemed nearly identical to their new scheme providing 221 social units, while in fact hiding a loss of 38% of the social provision.
Wandsworth Council proceeded the same. The GLA report explains:
“Of the 527 social rent units currently at the site, it is understood 397 units contain households that will require relocation with the remaining 130 units currently occupied on a temporary basis.”
As we said in the past, the fact that existing buildings are in a poor and declining physical condition, and therefore not occupied at full capacity, cannot be used as a justification for a scheme transforming drastically the landscape. It is actually the responsibility of the Council that failed to maintain the residential accommodation, with the purpose of pushing through a full regeneration.
It is shameful to see the London Mayor, a member of the Labour Party, endorsing this social cleansing.
Consultation biased and objections ignored by the Council
The Mayor’s Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration (GPGER) sets out the Mayor’s aspirations for full and transparent consultation, and meaningful ongoing involvement with estate residents throughout the regeneration process, to ensure resident support.
Therefore, an example of the exact opposite to this aspiration is undoubtedly the Winstanley & York Road Regeneration process conducted by Wandsworth Council.
According to Wandsworth Council (PR January 2020), “the Winstanley and York Road plans were developed following extensive consultation with local people“. Of course you can always organise as many consultation as you want if you choose to ignore their result when it contradicts your plans (the Ganley Court residents know a lot about it!). This was confirmed by the leader of Wandsworth Council Cllr Ravi Govindia who said a few years ago that hundreds of objections were neglectable in comparison to the borough’s population (read our article: “Deceitful Wandsworth Council used to misrepresent consultations“).
The Planning application (2019/0024) received 81 objections (residents are tired to write to the Council about the different consultations and be ignored or dismissed at best). A quick overview of the objections sent by local residents clearly highlight the case:
- “The council had written to us all initially when they used materials that made it very clear there would be fewer high-rise buildings” said several residents.
- Another one wrote: “The original proposals, which saw the residents and community support the most dramatic of the proposals for most demolition and development (which I also supported), did not mention multiple 31 story towers.“
- Residents of Falcon Estate said: “whilst The Falcons Estate have no objection to the principle of the redevelopment of the site, there are concerns that the proposals as presented are unacceptable“.
- An objector said: “Take us in consideration and don’t treat us a second class citizens“. Several others commented: “Are we worth less than the new upcoming residents? Why?“
They all urged for a reduction of units to be considered.
Following the 2013 masterplan options consultation, the Council presented the responses to the public. According to the booklet produced by the project teams-open-day-exhibition-boards in 2013, the number one thing that residents wanted to change was: Improved homes with fewer towers
Here is the response from the Council as presented in October 2017 on their exhibition boards at York Garden Library.
Therefore, either the Council misunderstood the view expressed by the local residents, or as shown in the more recent consultations, they decided to bulldoze through their own vision, ignoring residents and misrepresenting the local opinion!
According to the Winstanley-York regeneration team, 57% of the consultees preferred option 3 meaning full demolition of the estates. However, the 57% approval does not reflect the great divide between Council tenants who have been promised a relocation in the new redeveloped estate, and the freeholders /leaseholder /private tenants who will be likely to have to leave the whole area of Clapham Junction definitely.
In 2014, Latchmere ward councillor Simon Hogg pointed out a series of issues in his blog, saying that Council “tenants are more in favour of the plans than leaseholders, as they are guaranteed a new flat in the local area.”
If you take the example of Ganley Court, the freeholders of those maisonettes could be offered about £300k for their properties, but will not be able to buy any 2/3 bedroom house/flat for that amount in the area and would have to leave Clapham Junction or forced to take on additional mortgage. As one resident said, being ill and 70 year old make it impossible for him to get a mortgage.
Therefore, it seems at minimum that the GLA could have been misled by the applicant’s Statement of Community Involvement, especially stating that “Demolition was supported by the majority of residents at the initial event and ongoing consultation and engagement has maintained this“.
Less green space for Winstanley-York Road estates
Last but not least, the usual misleading presentations apply: you might remember that 10 years ago, twin skyscraper developer for Clapham Junction was presenting as an improvement the fact that they were rebuilding the entrance of the station… that they needed to destroy to build their proposal. Here we have exactly the same presentation: the current York Garden will be bulldozed (and should give place to a 31-32 storey tower at least), Ganley Court freehold terraced houses should be destroyed (with their gardens) and a new smaller green space created.
In reality, the new open space will be smaller and only likely to be completed around 2035. York Garden is totalling 3.68 hectares (Google map measurement – 2.52 ha according to Planning Officer’s report 2019/0024) and the press release revealed that the new open space will be only 2.49 hectares (-32%) while the number of homes should grow by 236%! The 2019 report from Wandsworth Council says (p31):
“The development would result in some loss of area. It is proposed that 0.86 ha (8,600 sqm) of York Gardens Park would be completed within the detailed proposals, with the remainder being completed later in the programme up to 2031”.
The 2031 date being just an assumption (see the delay of the Peabody’s project in Battersea – St John’s Hill that should have been finished by now, and is just currently building phase 2 with major disruption for the neighbourhood!) that might actually extend to … 2040 (choosing 2035 is therefore a conservative assumption for the delivery). For most of the next 15 to 20 years, a major green space in the area should be replaced by dirt, dust, hazardous substances and heavy machinery.
This is confirmed in the report, which states:
“During the demolition and construction works, the majority of [York Garden] would be cleared, resulting in the applicant’s opinion “temporary moderate adverse effects”.
Over 173 trees, a staggering amount of 124 are marked to be chopped down, most of them being large mature and semi mature trees. Those figures are available on page 284 of the 2019 report, and show that 71% of the existing trees should be removed!
More than 750 local residents have already signed a petition to Save York Garden.
It makes a joke of the pledge from the Leader of the Council to be the cleanest and greenest inner London borough.
The report acknowledges that local residents considered that the level of tree loss is high (it’s an euphemism!) in their consultation responses, and this will have significant impacts on biodiversity and amenity. Residents also pointed to the loss of high amenity value trees within the existing site boundary (it is not disputed in the officer’s report that new tree “will take time to mature“). However the legitimate concerns from the tree officers along with the numerous ones from the local community were, once again, brushed aside to the convenience of the prospective future benefits that is promoted by the developers.
“Whilst it is acknowledged that a number of dwellings (within Parkside St Peters) would lose an existing outlook onto trees as a result of the proposal, officers are satisfied that this impact is significantly outweighed by the wider public benefits of the scheme.”
As usual the 2019 Wandsworth Planning report managed to dismiss all objections with their standard moto: “The application delivers significant public benefits, which outweigh the harm in respect of residential amenity set out in this report” (p326 of the report).
Cumulative impact ignored
For the last five years we have urged the Council to take into account the consequences of the cumulative impact induce by the number of tall developments approved in the York Road area (despite strong objection on all of them from local community groups and Societies, and clear breach of policies).
It is ironic that those controversial developments forced through by a blind Council are now used as a justification for the size of the regeneration proposal. The GLA report states:
“The massing in this area would be the tallest across the site, which would reflect the character of nearby newly consented developments along the emerging York Road Corridor.”
Once again, it shows a great contempt towards the local community.
The GLA report provides striking data regarding the massing and density of the scheme:
“The maximum density of the scheme would be 232 units or 692 habitable rooms per hectare, compared to 72 units per hectare and 200 habitable rooms per hectare for the existing estate.”
For many years, we and other local Societies, have complained on the lack of consideration for the cumulative impact and the consequences the multiple scheme approved for the area would create. In 2015, we wrote that the cumulative impact of the all proposed or approved applications and the overall development of the surrounding area is a material consideration. Counting all proposals and approved schemes, we could get much more that 3000 units for the area within the next 10 years, which might convert into more than 6,000-10,000 additional residents using local amenities and transport facilities.
During Wandsworth local plan examination hearing, on the 8th and 9th of July 2015, the government inspector suggested amending the local policy with the following wording:
Development, including changes of use, will be permitted where the residual cumulative impact on the transport system, (including public transport capacity and the highway network) is not significant.
It seems beyond imagination that several thousands of new residents would not have a significant impact on transport.
All objections by representatives ignored
Last but not least, it’s not only a contempt of local residents that has been demonstrated through the process.
Latchmere ward Councillors Simon Hogg and Kate Stock submitted a representation supported the principle of estate regeneration and the new community facilities. However, they also noted that “on the uplift of housing levels on the estate only 18% constitutes affordable housing and this is split 10% council homes and 90% intermediate“. They expressed concerns about the height of some of the blocks, and they also highlighted that “when residents were initially consulted about the regeneration, they told the Council that they wanted improved homes with fewer towers“. They pointed at the massive disturbance caused by the planned 16 years demolition and construction period, noting that “these works will impact those living and working on the estate and the immediate surrounding area not least because of an increase in construction traffic, air and noise pollution and reduced green space“.
Member of Parliament for Battersea, Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea, secured a debate on Winstanley Estate Regeneration on March, 22nd (Citation: HC Deb, 22 March 2019, c1433). She made interesting comments, mostly about the lack of social units in the scheme (currently council houses representing the majority of homes on the estate, while of the proposed 2,000 extra homes, just three will be council homes), while Wandsworth Council has nearly 7,000 families on its housing waiting list, and that the Council is accused of promoting “social engineering” within the Winstanley and York Road estates. We also learned that in 2018, 90% of the houses built in the borough of Wandsworth were unaffordable private homes, while less than 3% were council homes. In her written submission on the planning application, she also raised concerns about the height of buildings and the level of engagement with local residents.
A scheme both very profitable for private developer Taylor Wimpey PLC and the Council
Latchmere ward Councillors have highlighted the staggering profit made on the development, saying:
“The Council’s Housing and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee has been told that the rate of return for the property developer on this project is currently 35%. That’s around double the industry average.”
The entire scheme is also highly profitable for the Council, making it a very good financial operation at the expense of the local community.
Community Infrastructure Levy estimate for the scheme (paper 2019/0024), the planning tax that the Wandsworth Council will put in its coffer, is set to be about £50m. To put it into perspective, it represents the same amount as the annual Council tax for the borough, or a quarter of the annual budget.
We consider that the scheme proposed for the Winstanley and York Road estates regeneration fails to comply with the spirit of the Mayor’s Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration (GPGER) on a number of core considerations:
- Decrease in affordable housing: While recent survey show that the area is in need of more social and affordable accommodations, the proposal will see a decrease of social provision while most of the site will be offer to market rent. Social cleansing is engineered in order to drastically reduced the number of social + affordable units in share of the new development.
- Occupants pushed away from the whole area: Issue has been raised for freeholders who are going to suffer hugely from the decade(s) of redevelopment, and will be evicted from the area.
- Consultations ignored and ballot prevented: We have clearly demonstrated and documented that the consultation results were dismissed, or at least grossly biased and the view of local residents were ignored all along the process. The Council has carefully avoided the GLA funding in order to prevent having to organise a ballot that would have surely be controversial.
We urge the London authorities, local bodies and Labour party to reconsider their positions on the view of the elements presented above and engage with the local community to make the estate regeneration a successful scheme that will be praised as an exemplar redevelopment.
You can download our full report in PDF format here: Submission CJAG 2021 – Winstanley and York Road Estates