Cressingham Gardens

Cressingham residents and supporters outside Lambeth Town Hall

Cressingham  Gardens is a small council estate a short walk south from the centre of Brixton, between the road to Tulse Hill and Brockwell Park. It dates from the era when councils were proud to provide housing for their residents at the highest possible standard, and Lambeth had one of the better architects of the era,  Edward Hollamby as chief architect. Perhaps surprisingly, at the time Lambeth was under Conservative control, with a rather uninspiring young John Major as deputy chair of the housing committee.

It was an impressive and innovative development, achieving a relatively high density with low rise buildings and still appearing spacious, and built at relatively low cost.  Like most estates it has had a few problems and suffered from poor maintenance, but it has always been popular and largely crime-free.  It isn’t in bad condition but needs some refurbishment, at an estimated cost of around £25-30,000 per dwelling, and Lambeth Council – now of  course a Labour council – says this is unaffordable. Instead it wants to knock the lot down and have the entire site redeveloped and has signed a £6.7m contract with developers Mott MacDonald over a scheme that will possibly produce 16 new ‘affordable’ homes. The residents put forward an alternative ‘people’s plan’, “a sympathetic resident-led upgrade of the estate, as well as offering up to 37 extra homes for council rent, which entails no unnecessary demolition.”

Labour policy nationally is now that all such schemes should be subject to a ballot by residents which has been supported by London’s Mayor, but Lambeth Labour is saying that this is unnecessary for this scheme as they have already consulted with residents.  The residents are still calling for a ballot, and early in December they marched from the estate to Lambeth Town Hall to demand this.

They held a rally outside the Town Hall, with speakers and performances but it seems that Lambeth Council is still not listening, and is determined to push ahead with this scheme despite the personal hardship and the break up of the community it will entail.

Possibly the forthcoming local council elections will make some changes to the council and to others in London where communities like this are under threat from councils scheming to hand over publicly owned assets to private developers.  Already campaigns by local residents have led to Haringey Council having to abandon its huge scheme involving properties worth over £2 billion, and things are looking hopeful that changes may occur elsewhere.

There was a clear message to Lambeth from the protest, and it is one which comes from the heart of what local democracy should be. Unless it reflects the interests of the local people it is clearly failing.

More pictures of the estate and of the protest:

Cressingham residents say Ballot Us!
Cressingham Gardens


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